Lake Hallie men become first-ever same-sex couple to wed in Chippewa County

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LAKE HALLIE, Wis. (WEAU) - More counties are accepting applications for same-sex marriages, including Chippewa County, which had its first gay couple wed Wednesday.

At least 52 counties are now taking applications after the state's ban was ruled unconstitutional last week.

Billy Smith and Roy Calkins have been together since 1986, and say they knew they wanted to marry all along. With the ban now reversed, they finally have that chance.

“We always knew we were gonna marry, when it was legal,” Calkins said.

“But we just didn't think we would see it,” Smith said.

A Friday ruling by U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb opened the door for same-sex marriages in Wisconsin catching couples like Smith and Calkins by surprise.

As of Tuesday, more than half of the state's county clerks decided to allow same-sex couples to apply for marriage licenses, but Chippewa County wasn't one of them.

“We don't want to as a state, put any applicants into any legal situation that may come back to haunt them,” Chippewa County Clerk Sandi Frion said.

But Frion said more consideration and discussion changed her mind.

“With Judge Crabb basically stating that the ban was unconstitutional, that kind of overrides what the state is saying at this time. So until we get further direction, and an injunction is put in place, we will accept same sex applications,” Frion said.

They were welcomed words to Smith and Calkins.

“I was very excited, we've been together, going on 30 years, and it's been something that we've been waiting for for a long time. Now I feel our life is complete,” Calkins said.

“It's a very good move and will probably go down on history,” Smith said.

So Wednesday, the two traveled from their Lake Hallie home to the Chippewa County Courthouse to make things official.

“(It was) just like a cement block lifted off my chest,” Calkins said.

“We finally achieved something that we didn't think we'd achieve ‘til after our deaths,” Smith said.

“It's been 29 years of waiting and it's just nice to know that people are finally realizing that we're out there and we're not going nowhere.”

So far, at least 483 same-sex marriage licenses have been issued in Wisconsin. State Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen is appealing the ruling.