From lovebirds to jailbirds

Lesbian couple may face jail time for California marriage.

Topics: Broadsheet, Love and Sex,

If you’re a gay couple traveling to California to wed, chances are your state won’t recognize your marriage (unless, of course, you live in New York). But the lucky folks in Wisconsin may actually face a fate worse than legal invisibility. It turns out there’s an old law on the books prohibiting couples from leaving the state to marry and then returning with a union that isn’t valid in Wisconsin. Apparently, this is a form of fraud and can lead to nine months of jail time and a fine of up to $10,000.

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The law isn’t enough to deter Kathy Cox and Kim Whalen, a pair of Wisconsin lesbians who have been together for over 20 years. The couple plans to tie the knot in California on 8/8/08, come what may. Cox speaks eloquently of their predicament, saying, “The pioneers get the arrows, and the settlers get the land. So we’ll take a few arrows.” Well, good for them. There’s nothing like a bit of good, old civil disobedience to point out the utter ridiculousness of an obscure law passed in 1915.

Of course, in order for Cox and Whalen to be punished, someone is going to have to prosecute them. And that person might very well be Julaine Appling of the Wisconsin Family Council, who visibly seethes at the idea of a gay couple crossing state lines to wed. “That’s a defrauding of the government!” she exclaims. Um, right. I’m so sure it’s Appling’s fierce commitment to antifraud law, rather than deep-seated homophobia, that has her all fired up.

Now, I know it’s pointless to expect anything resembling logic or empathy from anti-queer activists. You’d think, though, that they’d have better things to do than press charges against two lesbians whose marriage will already be legally null in their home state.

Judy Berman is a writer and editor in Brooklyn. She is a regular contributor to Salon's Broadsheet.

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