Wisconsin’s attorney general will not defend the state against a challenge to domestic partner registries which became law as part of the state budget.
Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen had no comment on his decision Friday, but critics have been weighing in. “What he’s doing is choosing to, instead of being the top lawyer to the state of Wisconsin, he’s choosing to be the top politician,” says Madison Democrat, state Representative Mark Pocan. “He’s basically making sure that he’s pandering to his political base.”
Van Hollen says his decision isn’t based on policy disagreement, but on his oath to uphold the state Constitution – but Pocan notes that puts taxpayers on the hook. “We have to go to outside counsel, so ultimately state taxpayers will have to pick up tens of thousands of dollars of legal fees,” he says.
Wisconsin Family Action has asked the State Supreme Court to strike down the registries, based on a 2006 Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage or any similar legal status for same-sex couples. Van Hollen says that amendment is why he cannot represent the state against the petition to overturn the law.
“It’s really more just frustrating that he’s not looking at it like every other state lawyer has, saying that this will be upheld, and instead he’s making a political statement,” says Pocan. The state Supreme Court has not yet decided whether it will hear the legal challenge to the registries.