Wisconsin OKs Same-Sex Partnership Registry
(CN) - A "family values" advocate who reportedly never married and lives with a longtime female companion lost her quixotic protest of Wisconsin's Domestic Partner Registry.
Wisconsin lawmakers passed a domestic partnership law in 2009, three years after voters changed the state constitution to define marriage as "between one man and one woman."
That year, Juliane Appling, the president of Wisconsin Family Action, led four others in a lawsuit that claimed the domestic partnership law violated the amended state constitution.
The Wisconsin Gazette later reported that "Appling, who has never married or had children, lives with a longtime female companion in a home that the two own jointly in Watertown."
Appling and her co-plaintiffs lost every court battle.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court rejected their lawsuit in November 2009.
Roughly a year later, the plaintiffs refiled with the Dane County Circuit Court, which heard the case during a shakeup in Wisconsin's executive branch.
In early 2011, the hard-right Gov. Scott Walker replaced his Democratic predecessor, Jim Doyle, who was a defendant in Appling's lawsuit. Walker terminated Doyle's lawyers and started actively opposing the domestic partnership law.
The intervening defendants, including the civil rights group Fair Wisconsin, won anyway in June 2011.
A three-judge panel of the Wisconsin Court of Appeals unanimously upheld that decision on Dec. 20, 2012.
"This case is not about whether the Wisconsin or United States Constitutions require, on equal protection or other grounds, that same-sex couples have the right to a legally recognized relationship that is identical or substantially similar to marriage," Judge Paul Lundsten for the court. "To the contrary, for the domestic partnership law to pass muster here, the 'legal status' created by that law may not be 'substantially similar' to the 'legal status' of marriage. Because the legal and evidentiary arguments of the parties persuade us that the two are not 'substantially similar,' we affirm the circuit court's decision holding that the domestic partnership law does not violate the marriage amendment."
Lundstein noted that certain state legislators who supported the same-sex marriage ban specifically denied that it would deprive gay couples of domestic partner benefits.
"In sum, our review of the historical context of passage persuades us that informed voters would have understood that marriage amendment proponents were saying that the marriage amendment would not ban legally recognized domestic partnerships conferring a limited subset of the rights and obligations of marriage," the 39-page opinion states.