Lawsuit Challenges Wisconsin Same-sex “Domestic Partner” Scheme

A lawsuit was filed with the Wisconsin Supreme Court [last] Thursday that argues that the governor and state legislature are illegally skirting a voter-approved constitutional amendment protecting marriage.  The lawsuit asks the high court to halt the state’s “domestic partnership” scheme because it creates a legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage, which the lawsuit says directly violates Article 13, Section 13, of the state constitution.

The scheme, proposed and signed into law by Gov. Jim Doyle after passage by the Legislature as part of the 2010-11 state budget, is available only to couples involved in a same-sex relationship.  The governor and Legislature created the requirements and eligibility language simply by inserting the words “domestic partnership” next to “marriage” in state statutes that govern how a man and woman are married.

According to the new law, “domestic partners” receive “declarations” instead of “marriage licenses,” but otherwise the procedures for becoming domestic partners and becoming husband and wife are virtually the same.

In November 2006, 59 percent of Wisconsin voters approved an amendment to the state constitution that reads, “Only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state.  A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized in this state.”

“Politicians shouldn’t be trying to skirt the will of voters who legitimately amended the Wisconsin Constitution in a fair election,” said Alliance Defense Fund Senior Counsel Brian Raum. ADF lawyers filed the lawsuit on behalf of Wisconsin Family Action.

“This new domestic partnership scheme is precisely the type of marriage imitation that the constitutional amendment approved by Wisconsin voters was intended to prevent,” he continued. “Those who are determined to redefine marriage in Wisconsin are attempting an end-run assault on marriage hoping they can evade the clear language of the state constitution.”

“Our system of government serves no purpose if our elected officials can completely and capriciously ignore the will of the people with impunity,” agreed Wisconsin Family Action President Julaine Appling, lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, Appling v. Doyle.  “A reasonable person observing this registry would easily conclude that it mimics marriage and is a test of the marriage amendment and the express will of the people.  It borrows the requirements and eligibility standards for marriage, even to the point of requiring that the price of the registry certificate be the same as for a marriage license.”

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  • bambushka

    I appreciate the word “scheme” as it is used in this article. That is a very good description of what the whole agenda is. The word marriage and “same-sex” should never be used in the same sentence.

  • whisper74

    Intriguing that most, if not all, articles against the statewide registry have not allowed comments on them. Thank you for the opportunity to add a comment.

    Yes, some have considered this a “scheme.” But there seems to have been an eye-for-an-eye thing going on here. What happened to Jesus’ teaching of turning the other cheek? One obsession I’ve observed is that people are concerned about the cost to taxpayers. And the burden and damage caused. Then, the opposition comes up with their own scheme to go directly to the state Supreme Court over this. I wonder what the cost of the taxpayer will be for the lawsuit.

    And another thing: the will of the people was to prohibit look-alike marriage and not to prohibit granting particular benefits. According to the amendment sponsors themselves, the intent was just to prohibit look-alike marriage. The will of the people was not to prohibit granting benefits.

    The registry grants 43 rights from the state, and nothing from the federal government. Marriage grants 200+ rights from the state, and 1000+ from the federal government. All couples, regardless of religious belief, deserve the basic rights of being able to care for and provide for each other in times of emergency. Marriage is for heterosexual couples, and domestic partner declarations are for homosexual couples. The only thing similar to these separate legal constructs is the qualifications to obtain each. Everything else, except for 43 rights out of 1200+ rights, are different.

    Thanks again for the opportunity to comment. 🙂

  • Mary Kochan

    whisper74, I think you might be misinterpreting the opposition. It is not true that the only reason was to prohibit “look-alike ‘marriage'” and not limit benefits. There is a very good reason to limit benefits to pairs of homosexuals, because unlike heterosexual couples, they are not themselves providing to the state the great benefit of producing and nurturing the next generation. Natural marriage is ordered to the good of society and the next generation, not merely to the good of the spouses. Hence it is right that society should protect it and surround it with privileges and advantages.