Sue Carnell and Gail Chodron weren't able to get a marriage license when they went to the City-County Building in the hours after Friday's District Court ruling that halted Wisconsin's ban on same-sex marriages.

Yet they both ended up playing their own big roles in one of the more memorable images from the wedding celebrations taking place outside the building.

Chodron took a photo of Carnell, a Madison police officer, and two of her uniformed colleagues carrying cakes for the impromptu party. Chodron then shared it with two people and it went viral over the weekend.

The tagline with Chodron's photo when first tweeted by Judy Karofsky: "The cops brought the cake."

"We get ribbed for a lot of things as police officers," Carnell said, "and I'll tell you, I don't mind being ribbed for something like that."

Carnell and Chodron were married five years ago in Vancouver; same-sex marriage has been legal in Canada since 2005. So they were told Friday that they were not eligible to be married again and that their Canadian union was recognized here.

They were outside the City-County Building, celebrating with other couples who got married, when Carnell struck up a conversation with fellow officers Matt Kenny and Zach Kimbrew.

Given the number of wedding celebrations taking place, Kenny made the suggestion that he and Kimbrew should go get some cake.

"There should be cake," Carnell said later. "It was a wedding."

Kenny and Kimbrew soon returned from Hy-Vee. That's when Chodron snapped the picture of Kimbrew, Kenny and Carnell, each with a sheet cake in a plastic container, walking across Martin Luther King Boulevard toward the City-County Building. Carnell, the only one of the three not in police uniform, also has a bag of utensils and appears to be raising the cake to show the crowd.

Karofsky and Capital Times associate editor John Nichols were both on site but didn't see the cake arrive, so Chodron sent both the picture.

After both tweeted it, the image gained traction through a series of retweets and Facebook posts, some with captions added.

As of Monday afternoon, Nichols' version had been retweeted more than 750 times, with 70 more retweets of Karofsky's post. Wired investigative reporter Steve Silberman tweeted it three times since Saturday, gaining another 700-plus retweets combined. On Facebook, PrideFest Milwaukee's copy of the photo had more than 14,000 likes and more than 4,000 shares.

Carnell noticed Saturday morning how many people had seen the picture on social media and later said she was a little surprised by the virality.

"It's a beautiful moment to be able to have your constitutional rights," she said. "I'm in that business. That's what I do. I work every day to make sure everybody's constitutional rights are protected. And here's a moment where I feel like my constitutional rights are also now being stood up for. I think everybody out there feels the same way, and it's just a moment to rejoice... to say, 'Yeah, this is what we're about, this is our right, this is great.'"

Todd D. Milewski has worked for The Capital Times since 2003, covering development, data and sports in addition to working with video and multimedia projects.

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(14) comments

coco
coco

Protect and serve (cake)...lol. This good publicity is worth every dime. Although, I'm quite sure they would have made the same amount of money either way.
Do all you people object to fire fighters playing cards or watching TV if nothing is burning?

skylarks
skylarks

Total joke!! This is news??

Sheriff Buford T Justice
Sheriff Buford T Justice

@c bar- it took well over 30 min(for a lunch break) to go to hy vee and pick up cakes and run them back, as well as to get photo ops and sit around and celebrate on OUR dime. As far as Vegas, you're off topic as well. Have a good nite.

Crow Barr
Crow Barr

Not to argue police details with the likes of a Sheriff, but if the squad is rolling they are on duty, is that not how it works? Stores like having cops walking thru them, do they not?

Buford, you need to get out of the jailhouse, get some exercise and walk to the bakery for your own free donut! (Catch a j-walker in the process!)

QuestionEverything
QuestionEverything

No conern either for or against; it's their private business. BUT I pay taxes as well, and wonder if the County Clerk is paying for all the overtime (30 people!) on Saturday and Sunday (?) out of his own pocket or from the taxpayers wallets. Never having held a job that isn't paid for by tax dollars, he feels no constraints to unnecessarily spend that much for so few licenses issued beyond normal hours. I sincerely doubt that an overflow of straight applicants other than on this momentous occasion would have drawn his "not my money" courtesy. He needs to find a job that doesn't require getting elected (tough for a Dem in Madison!), where he won't have all the Brett Halsey-type limelight sucking!

NotleftorrightR
NotleftorrightR

While I would normally object to any government employee using on duty time to engage in something which should be a personal off-duty activity, I am sure the down time involved in this was very little. On-duty officers have stopped at other social events for personal reasons and visited for a few minutes here and there all of time and frankly this isn't news worthy. The only reason this is news is because someone posted a picture and made it news.

B-Man
B-Man

I wonder if they'd have the same reaction from the public if they showed up at a Tea Party rally?

McStubbins
McStubbins

If TeaPartiers were forever denied the right to marry, and on that day a judge said "yes you can" and there was a big party and weddings; then yes, there would be the same reaction.

But if it were a normal Tea Party rally filled with the usual anger and hate, then... no, probably not.

Sheriff Buford T Justice
Sheriff Buford T Justice

Its a nice feel good story but, I DON'T pay TAXES to have CITY EMPLOYEES using CITY VEHICLES for PERSONAL USE while ON DUTY! They were not doing their jobs and should be held accountable for it!

PapaLorax
PapaLorax

why do you think they were on duty?

Sheriff Buford T Justice
Sheriff Buford T Justice

@ Pappa- Maybe Im just Captain Obvious, but the fact that they were in uniform wearing their guns with a squad car in the back ground kinda clued me in they were working and not off duty. If theyre off duty they shouldnt be using a squad car for personal business.

@ April- My name isnt Charlene. Im also gainfully employed and pay the City taxes so I have a right to Bi**ch when I see misuse of my money.

@Iris- Your off topic. My reply had nothing to do with Walker or his donors.Although I also agree with your statement.

To clarify- I dont care either way about the Gay Marriage thing. Peoples personal lives are none of my business.

Crow Barr
Crow Barr

Sheriff whatever, maybe they were on their coffee break? Two cops killed out west on duty, sitting in a café, squad outside, you complaining about them?

Lot of people in uniforms, driving company vehicles, do human "good-deeds" everyday, so stuff it!

Norby
Norby

Maybe they should get a bonus for all the free publicity and goodwill they generated for the Madison police department.

Mine
Mine

cops for labor/cops for love

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