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ravkboaz

Walworth County Clerk, Wisconsin

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In the past nine days, I have received two calls regarding the Walworth County Clerk here in Wisconsin. She seems to be making her own laws when it comes to sponsorship of out-of-state ministers. In both cases, she failed to issue the license to the bride and groom because a letter of sponsorship for the minister was not submitted with their application.

Background:

The statute states that the minister must possess a letter of sponsorship at the time of the wedding. The sposorship must be from a resident of Wisconsin who is a minister of the same denomination. The statute says nothing

about a couple having to present it with the marriage license application or with the completed certificate. The statute does not prescribe a form for the letter. It can be presumed that the letter might need to be presented at later date in case there was a question about a minister's credentials or his failure to complete the paperwork in a timely manner.

(The couple would probably still be considered married under WI law even if the minister turned out to be a fraud, but the alleged minister would be in trouble).

Case one: The couple applied for a license. When they went to pick it up, the clerk would not give it to them because the

letter of sponsorship was not written on official church letterhead. The minister in this situation had to find

another minister who had stationary and a fax machine. Even though it was the day before the wedding, the

clerk insisted upon having the new sponsor fax a letter of sponsorship to her before the license was issued.

Case two: Yesterday, a couple was not allowed to pick up a license from the Walworth County Clerk because a letter of

sponsorship had not been faxed to her. The minister has received sponsorship, but has not received the hard

copy (the legal one) of his letter. While not wishing any harm to the couple, the sponsoring body does not wish

to submit to clerks who write their own laws. It will left to the minister performing the ceremony to decide whether or not to comply with the clerk's wishes, because there seems to be enough time prior to the

ceremony.

I would be interested to get comments or suggestions about the above situations. It bothers me when county clerks try

to step beyond their boundaries.

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I would have the couples involved in this write to our attorney general. It sounds like the clerk is trying to make the couples take on more responsibility than they hold. While the clerk can request a copy of the letter, that should be delt with through the minister.

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a letter to the states attorney general might be nice,if there is time for that,but it seems to me that the county crook(not misspelled)has to answer to someone local,so they need to be contacted asap.mabye then she could explain her actions to them,or show them where the law says she can do that.

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Have you asked the clerk under what authority she is refusing?

I plan to do that. I wrote my original post over the weekend when the clerks office was closed.

I will keep the forum updated.

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I would be interested to get comments or suggestions about the above situations. It bothers me when county clerks try

to step beyond their boundaries.

Here is an interesting read of one of the WI statutes.

765.12(1)(a)

(a) If ss. 765.02, 765.05, 765.08, and 765.09 are complied with, and if there is no prohibition against or legal objection to the marriage, the county clerk shall issue a marriage license. With each marriage license the county clerk shall provide a pamphlet describing the causes and effects of fetal alcohol syndrome.

The word bolded, italicized, and underlined was done so by me. The reason this is interesting is that the Supreme Court used this same buzz word to force states to issue handgun permits. When the statute read "the county clerk shall" that means that the clerk has no choice than to follow the law as written. There is no discretion of the clerk allowed here. Once the provisions of 765.02, 765.05, 765.08, and 765.09 are complied with, the clerk has no other action to take other than issue the license.

You are correct that the minister must hold the letter of sponsorship at the time of the ceremony, and there is no provision for the clerk to even know who is performing the ceremony until the license is returned. Who is asking for or offering this information? Don't offer the information, and if asked say that you have not yet selected the minister. If the clerk still refuses then drop this statute citation and request the clerk cite which statute he is relying on to request the information and deny the license.

That's probably as far as you will need to go with it. Once the clerk has someone citing the laws to them they almost always get an opinion letter from the AG themselves. Have you searched for any AG opinions on the subject? They are usually published and always available under the FOI act.

Good luck, but I think your best bet is less information is better. Don't say who is performing the ceremony, or just say he is not yet been selected.

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I do weddings in Wisconsin (and live in Minnesota) and on the county web site of 2 of the wisconsin counties that I do weddings in, they specifically state that the officiant's name address and phone number are needed when applying for the license. This is not called out in the state statute anywhere that I can find, but it is most likely asked for to determine if the officiant is a resident or not.

I have had couples contact me because they forgot to bring my address and phone number with them when they applied.

So far no clerk has asked any of my couples for a letter of sponsorship, although I supply them with an electronic copy just in case.

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I just wrote a very detailed reply about the latest from the Walworth County Clerk. It suddenly disappeared when I clicked to add it. I can't seem to retrieve it. Is it gone forever?

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I just wrote a very detailed reply about the latest from the Walworth County Clerk. It suddenly disappeared when I clicked to add it. I can't seem to retrieve it. Is it gone forever?

Some time you can retrieve it by clicking on the bottom where it shows where you have been. If that don't bring it up I am afraid it is in the Internet air ways, in the lost letter file. What I have started doing if I am writing a long letter is about a fourth of the way through I click save and file it in draft, then after writing more I click save and that is added to what I have already saved, that way if it decides to go to LaLa land I have a copy. I hate rewriting letters. Good luck, I know it was an important letter I have been reading your posts. Janette :hhike:

Edited by Janette

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I am sorry. I am new but what exactly is a letter of sponsorship and how do i obtain one?

If you are a non-resident of Wisconsin, you need to have a letter of sponsorship to be able to perform a wedding in Wisconsin. It has to come from a minister of the same denomination that you are who has a church under his/her ministry.

If ordained by ULC of modesto you can get one here: http://ulcwisconsin.org/html/sponoshiptemp.html

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IF your positive in reference to the law, initiate a letter to the state attorney general, with what is going on, and copy to the clerk's office..

REVPO :coffee:

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I am an attorney licensed in Wisconsin and Minnesota. I think the quickest and easiest thing is just to provide the letter to the clerk. Even if the clerk doesn't have authority to ask for the letter (and I didn't research whether or not she has authority), is it worth it to get into it with the clerk? You can't fight city hall, and even when you can, you won't make friends. My county has a sample letter of sponsorship on their website : http://www.co.saint-croix.wi.us/Department...SPONSORSHIP.pdf.

The clerk may be trying to cover herself so she is not in violation of sec. 765.30(2)(b), which is punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and or up to 9 months in jail. See http://nxt.legis.state.wi.us/nxt/gateway.d...tes/13857/13881.

Amy Rapoport

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I am an attorney licensed in Wisconsin and Minnesota. I think the quickest and easiest thing is just to provide the letter to the clerk. Even if the clerk doesn't have authority to ask for the letter (and I didn't research whether or not she has authority), is it worth it to get into it with the clerk? You can't fight city hall, and even when you can, you won't make friends. My county has a sample letter of sponsorship on their website : http://www.co.saint-croix.wi.us/Department...SPONSORSHIP.pdf.

The clerk may be trying to cover herself so she is not in violation of sec. 765.30(2)(b), which is punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and or up to 9 months in jail. See http://nxt.legis.state.wi.us/nxt/gateway.d...tes/13857/13881.

Amy Rapoport

I don't suppose you might be interested in doing some legal advising for ULC of Wisconsin?

I agree that the easiest approach is to provide the letter, but timelines can be seriously impacted by this requirement. A license has a 5 day waiting period on it. If the couple only learns of this sponsorship at the last minute, getting a letter in time can be impossible. The best solution is to get this sponsorship letter requirement removed. I would like some help getting that ball rolling.

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I don't suppose you might be interested in doing some legal advising for ULC of Wisconsin?

I agree that the easiest approach is to provide the letter, but timelines can be seriously impacted by this requirement. A license has a 5 day waiting period on it. If the couple only learns of this sponsorship at the last minute, getting a letter in time can be impossible. The best solution is to get this sponsorship letter requirement removed. I would like some help getting that ball rolling.

Sure, I can advise on ULC legal issues for Wisconsin, and Minnesota (not that there's any issue in Minnesota as far as I know).

As far as changing the law in Wisconsin goes, I don't know what the rationale is for the law or how likely it is that it could be changed.

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Sure, I can advise on ULC legal issues for Wisconsin, and Minnesota (not that there's any issue in Minnesota as far as I know).

As far as changing the law in Wisconsin goes, I don't know what the rationale is for the law or how likely it is that it could be changed.

What about getting a petition going, that usually has some impact in legislature?

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Follow-up:

The minister who requested sponsorship is also an attorney in Illinois. He agreed that the clerk didn't really have the right to withold the license, but did not want to hold the couple's wedding as a "hostage" in the legal process. The "hard copy"

had been mailed, as usual, to the minister, but there was a "time crunch."

The sponsorship letter was faxed to the minister, who then faxed it to the clerks. As a sponsor, I do not want to become an intermediary among ministers, clerks, and couples.

My results of my call to the clerk's office was very unsatisfactory. The two functionaries with whom I spoke just gave to party line. The supposed reason for the letter rquirement was to make sure that the couple would be legally married.

That is a silly thing to think because the name of the minister, for many reasons, could change before the ceremony is actually completed. If anyone should check legality, it should be the register of deeds with whom the completed license is filed.

At this point, I am not sure that we need to mess with the marriage laws. Rev. Calli, a man whom I respect, said awhile back that sometimes it is better not to meddle with them too much: we might get something worse. (Aside: I ran into Rev. Calli not long ago and he was looking very well).

Glad to see and attorney at the site. It is always tricky to guide people about such matters after giving the caveat, "I'm not a lawyer."

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