Same-sex couples wed in Brown County

By Heather Sawaski, Local 5 News

Published 06/09 2014 05:28PM

Updated 06/09 2014 05:48PM

BROWN COUNTY, Wis. (WFRV) - In Brown County, 18 same-sex couples received marriage licenses Monday, and the ceremonies started almost immediately.

After five years together, Berri and Lisa West can made it official.

"Technically bride and groom according to the paperwork," Berri joked. "But we're okay with that. It's legal. That's all that matters."

The women become the first same-sex couple to marry in Brown County.

"Although it's just a piece of paper, it's a very special piece of paper," said Berri.

They were one of a handful of couples who spent the morning at the Brown County Clerk's Office Monday, waiting for answers.

On Friday, a federal judge found Wisconsin's ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. Brown County Clerk Sandy Juno decided against issuing licenses to same-sex couples until she got guidance from the state. According to the clerk's office, her questions went unanswered.

"There was no change of heart," explained Juliana Ruenzel, the county's corporate counsel. "We had to get some direction from the state. That's what we were waiting for. That's what we were looking for."

Licenses started being issued around 10:00 a.m. Monday. Ceremonies on the courthouse lawn soon followed.

"We want to be equitable," said Julie Tetzlaff, who married her partner, Stacie Christian. "That's all that we're asking for and this will acknowledge that we've been together for 21 years, that we are now a couple legally."

"I'm very happy for them," said the couple's daughter, Annie Herzog. "And all the other couples too. I was crying for the first wedding and I was crying for theirs."

For Berri and Lisa, this day is something special.

"This is just making it legal so other means are now within our grasp."

According to officials. the Brown County Clerk's Office will be open normal business hours, which are 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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