John M. Becker

WI Supremes Hearing Challenge to Domestic Partnerships

Filed By John M. Becker | October 23, 2013 12:45 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: domestic partnerships, gay marriage, marriage discrimination, marriage equality, relationship recognition, same-sex marriage, Wisconsin, Wisconsin Family Action, Wisconsin Supreme Court

wisconsin_supreme_court.jpgThis afternoon, the Wisconsin Supreme Court will hear arguments challenging the constitutionality of the state's domestic partnership registry. Wisconsin Family Action -- an anti-LGBT, anti-choice, pro-"intelligent design" GOP front group that's so homophobic they've even tried to derail drag shows at state universities -- sued to overturn the registry. Lambda Legal is defending it on behalf of Fair Wisconsin (the statewide equality organization) and five same-sex couples.

Arguments begin at 1:30 Central, 2:30 Eastern; click here to watch them live. A decision in the case is not expected for several months.

In November 2006, Wisconsin voters passed a constitutional marriage discrimination amendment banning same-sex marriage and anything "substantially similar." But three years later, Wisconsin legislatively passed domestic partnership protections for same-sex couples as part of Democratic Governor Jim Doyle's budget, becoming the first state with an existing marriage discrimination amendment to do so. The DP registry offers 43 basic legal protections to same-sex couples, including the right to take family medical leave to care for a sick partner, the right to inherit a partner's property in the absence of a will, hospital visitation rights, and the right not to be forced to testify against a partner in court.

The rights afforded to domestic partners in Wisconsin are but a fraction of the more than 200 protections granted to married opposite-sex couples under state law. By no reasonable measure can domestic partnerships be considered "substantially similar" to marriage -- or even remotely similar, for that matter. Nonetheless, Wisconsin Family Action has fought tooth and nail against the DP registry for the last four years, arguing that same-sex couples in the Dairy State don't deserve even the tiny shred of recognition, security, and dignity that domestic partnerships provide.

The ACLU reports:

"Soon after domestic partnerships became legal in Wisconsin in June 2009, Wisconsin Family Action, an antigay group, sued the state in Wisconsin Supreme Court, arguing that the law violates the antigay constitutional amendment barring marriage equality...

"After the Supreme Court rejected Wisconsin Family Action's case in 2009, the group filed another suit in Dane County Circuit Court. In December 2012, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals upheld the domestic partner registry as constitutional. The group then appealed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which is now considering the case."

john_michael_wedding_prephoto.jpgWFA's efforts to derail Wisconsin's domestic partnership registry have so far been incompetent at best. For example, in 2011, the group cited in its lawsuit a Fair Wisconsin blog post that Michael and I wrote marking the first anniversary of the domestic partnership registry. As far as they were concerned, our post was "proof" that domestic partnerships were "substantially similar" to marriage.

The group based that claim on the fact that Michael and I were wearing tuxedos in the photo Fair Wisconsin included with the article (left). (Because tuxedos automatically mean marriage, right?) But if Wisconsin Family Action had bothered to do their homework, they would have read the caption below the photograph, which made clear that it was from our wedding, not our Wisconsin domestic partnership. Alternatively, they could have looked at the timestamp on the photo, which reads "3/22/06" -- three whole years before the DP registry was in place.

Naturally, we provided Lambda Legal with affidavits refuting WFA's bogus claims.

Wisconsin Family Action and its lawyers are so incompetent that they don't even bother to read the timestamps and captions on photos, but they're also so hateful that the facts never get in the way of their malicious war on the state's LGBT families. Kudos to Lambda Legal, Fair Wisconsin, and the defendant intervenors in the case (couples Glenn Carlson and Michael Childers; Crystal Hyslop and Janice Czyscon; Kathy Flores and Ann Kendzierski; David Kopitzke and Paul Klawiter; and Chad and Andrew Wege) for standing up to WFA's attacks over and over again.

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