Mayer Brown partners with the ACLU in pro bono case to vindicate the marriages of same-sex couples
9 January 2015
Mayer Brown partnered with the American Civil Liberties Union LGBT & HIV Project and the ACLU of Wisconsin to file a lawsuit (Bloechl-Karlsen v. Walker) in federal court on behalf of same-sex couples who were married in Wisconsin after Mayer Brown and the ACLU successfully challenged the state’s ban on marriages of same-sex couples in another case (Wolf v. Walker). State officials had refused to recognize these marriages despite the ruling in Wolf. As a direct result of the Bloechl-Karlsen litigation, the defendants have now reversed their position and have taken steps to remedy the harms suffered by the plaintiffs.
In Bloechl-Karlsen, four couples sought recognition by Wisconsin state officials of their marriages in Wisconsin during the week between the federal district court’s decision in Wolf overturning Wisconsin’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples and the court’s subsequent stay of that ruling in June 2014. Approximately 550 same-sex couples were married in Wisconsin during that week, but the Wisconsin Attorney General later declared that these couples were not married in the eyes of the law.
In December 2014, after the Seventh Circuit resoundingly affirmed the Wolf decision and the Supreme Court declined to take the case, state officials expressed willingness to begin recognizing new marriages of same-sex couples. The Bloechl-Karlsen lawsuit successfully persuaded the state defendants to extend that recognition to the June marriages and to remedy the specific harms experienced by the plaintiff couples. As a result of the litigation, the defendants have taken steps to give the June marriages of same-sex couples the same respect and legal recognition given to married different-sex couples, and with that goal achieved, the plaintiffs have now voluntarily dismissed the case.
The Mayer Brown team in the Bloechl-Karlsen v. Walker case was led by Litigation & Dispute Resolution counsels Hannah Y.S. Chanoine (New York) and Richard B. Katskee (Washington DC) and included associates Alexandra L. Newman (Chicago), Rory Schneider (New York), and Tyler D. Alfermann (Chicago).
In addition to litigating the Wolf and Bloechl-Karlsen cases, Mayer Brown attorneys also filed a historic amicus brief on behalf of 172 members of the U.S. House of Representatives and 40 US Senators in the landmark case, United States v. Windsor, in which the US Supreme Court ultimately held that Section 3 of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional. And the firm recently led a research project on behalf of the Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice that studied violence and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people in the Americas. The results are being used to report on violence and other human rights violations against LGBTI persons in member states of the Organization of American States, and will also be used to advocate for laws that protect LGBTI individuals.