April 21, 2014

Wisconsin Supreme Court set to take up domestic partnership challenge

Justices on the Wisconsin state Supreme Court are set to hear oral arguments today in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the state’s domestic partnership registry.

The registry was created through the 2009 state budget by then-Governor Jim Doyle and Democrats that controlled the Legislature at the time. It creates a small set of rights for same-sex couples who go through the registration process, including granting control over property inheritance and allowing for hospital visitations.

Several board members of Wisconsin Family Action challenged the registry shortly after it was created, arguing that it violates a 2006 state constitutional amendment that bans gay marriage in Wisconsin or any other similar legal status for same-sex couples. WFA Executive Vice President James Maillette says they believe “the state domestic partnership schemes are precisely the type of marriage imitation that voters intended to prevent when they passed the amendment.”

The defense of the registry is being handled by Lambda Legal, after the state withdrew from the case. Attorney Christopher Clark believes the law is constitutional because it grants only a fraction of the rights currently afforded to married couples. Clark says “the domestic partnership registry provides a very limited number of important legal protections to same sex couples, but nowhere close to the number or scope of protections that come with a marital status.”

A Dane County judge ruled the registry does not violate the Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and that decision that was later upheld by an appeals court. It could be several months before the state Supreme Court releases a ruling in the case.