The Wisconsin Supreme Court has rejected a challenge to the state’s constitutional amendment banning same sex unions. Dick Wheeler, veteran Capitol reporter and Editor and President of The Wheeler Report, explained the court’s decision. “They concluded, as the Dane County circuit court did, that the marriage amendment and the ban on civil unions or similar language, was sufficiently closely related that it was a single amendment, not to be confused with submitting two separate constitutional changes,” said Wheeler.
The amendment limits marriage to one man and one woman and prohibits legal recognition of any similar status. William McConkey, a Door County resident and former professor at UW Oshkosh, had argued that those two provisions ought to have been presented to Wisconsin voters as two separate questions. Wheeler told WIBA that the court relied on precedent to arrive at a unanimous decision. “They said ‘we believe the unique circumstances of this case render the merits of McConkey’s claim fit for adjudication,’ and then they want back to precedent and said ‘oh by the way, we’ve already decided this.” Wheeler noted that the decision was written by Justice Michael Gableman, who’s in first year on the court. “This is a major opinion for a freshman to be writing,” said Wheeler.
Wisconsin voters approved the amendment in a statewide referendum in November of 2006. McConkey challenged the constitutionality of the ban in 2008. A Dane County judge rejected the challenge. Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess sided with the Department of Justice, which argued the two questions actually addressed the same issue of marriage. In his ruling, Niess said the issues are “two sides of the same coin.” McConkey challenged that ruling which led to the case being taken up by the Supreme Court.