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As Congress and presidential candidates trade accusations over immigration reform, advocates and experts urge caution in spreading misinformation; Alabama takes new action IVF policy following controversial court decision; and central states urge caution with wildfires brewing.

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Congress reaches a deal to avoid a partial government shutdown again. Arizona Republicans want to ensure Trump remains on their state ballot and Senate Democrats reintroduce the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.

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Hard times could be ahead for rural school districts that spent federal pandemic money on teacher salaries, a former Oregon lumber community drafts a climate-action plan and West Virginians may soon buy raw milk from squeaky-clean cows.

WI Attorney: Bill Underscores Legal Needs of Same-Sex Marriages

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Friday, December 9, 2022   

Congress has signed off on a bill that preserves federal protections for same-sex and interracial marriages. A legal expert in Wisconsin says it should help to keep legal rights for these couples secure.

The Respect for Marriage Act came together out of fears that a conservative-leaning U.S. Supreme Court would overturn a 2015 decision that effectively legalized same-sex marriages. The act doesn't force states to issue marriage licenses if that happens, but they'd have to recognize marriages from states that do.

Wausau-based attorney Andrew Schmidt said his office has helped same-sex couples exercise the legal rights that have been afforded to them for awhile now.

"We did powers of attorney for health care and advanced-directive medical directives," he said. "We also did an advanced directive on finances, or a power of attorney for finances, and wills."

Supporters of federal protections also have noted they can allow these couples to file their taxes jointly. In 2006, Wisconsin voters approved a same-sex marriage ban, but several years later, a court ruled that amendment was unconstitutional. The ACLU has said it believes the Wisconsin ruling would still hold if the U.S. Supreme Court's 2015 ruling is overturned.

As for the Respect for Marriage Act, supporters have said it has some provisions they disagree with, such as still allowing vendors to deny services to same-sex couples based on their own religious beliefs. Schmidt said he feels bill negotiators should have done more to prevent discrimination.

"There are people out there who will refuse to bake a cake or refuse to offer a taxi ride," he said.

Meanwhile, advocacy groups worry that should the Supreme Court decision fall, same-sex couples with little money would find it hard to travel to get a marriage license if there's a ban where they reside. Republican lawmakers and conservative groups who criticized the act said marriage should be defined as being between one man and one woman.


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House Bill passed with an overwhelming vote of 94-6, with three abstentions. Its companion, Senate Bill 159, passed unanimously with a vote of 34-0. (Chad Robertson/Adobe Stock)

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