Pro-Family Group Defends the People, the Constitution, and Marriage in New Lawsuit

President and board members of Wisconsin Family Action file lawsuit asserting Gov. Doyle’s statewide, same-sex domestic partnership registry is unconstitutional

WFA press release PDF

MADISON—Wednesday, Julaine Appling, president of Wisconsin Family Action (WFA), together with WFA board members Jo Egelhoff, Jerry Hiller, Richard Kessenich and E. Lee Webster, through their attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund, filed a complaint with the Dane County Circuit Court, asking it to declare the statewide, same-sex only “domestic partner” registry unconstitutional. Governor Doyle approved the registry as a part of the state’s two-year budget last summer.

The plaintiffs and their attorneys believe the registry violates the Wisconsin Marriage Amendment approved by nearly 60 percent of Wisconsin voters in November 2006 by creating a legal status substantially similar to that of marriage in direct violation of the Wisconsin Constitution, Article 13, Section 13.

“Our system of government serves no purpose if our elected officials can completely and capriciously ignore the will of the people with impunity,” said Appling. “A reasonable person observing this registry would easily conclude that it is intended to mirror marriage. 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.”

“Politicians shouldn’t defy the will of voters who legitimately amended the Wisconsin Constitution in a fair election,” said ADF Senior Counsel Brian Raum. “This domestic partnership scheme is precisely the type of marriage imitation that the constitutional amendment approved by Wisconsin voters was intended to prevent. Those who are determined to tamper with marriage in Wisconsin are attempting an end-run attack hoping they can evade the clear language of the state constitution.”

“Over 1.25 million voters legitimately amended the state constitution in a fair election. This registry is nothing more than political payback from Governor Doyle to those who helped him get re-elected in 2006 and a stealth attack on marriage by those who are determined to redefine marriage in the Badger State. The Governor and the legislators who approved the registry will not get a free pass for being obviously more concerned with advancing the agenda of a fringe activist group than representing the people who elected them,” noted Appling.

Plaintiffs are represented by Wisconsin ADF allied attorneys Richard M. Esenberg, Michael D. Dean with First Freedoms Foundation, and attorneys Austin Nimocks and Brian Raum with the Alliance Defense Fund, which is serving as lead counsel.

The complaint can be read here.

Wisconsin Family Action is a statewide, not-for-profit organization actively strengthening and preserving marriage, family, life and liberty in Wisconsin.


11 comments on “Pro-Family Group Defends the People, the Constitution, and Marriage in New Lawsuit

  1. Taraj says:

    I wouldn’t be so aggrieved with the domestic partnership registry if it were enacted via the normal political process rather than tacked onto the budget.

  2. William N. Platta says:

    Thank you, WFA, for deciding to go head-to-head with these people. It is such an ugly, ugly battle we’re called on to fight today but that’s what we’ve got so there’s no point remaining in denial. Best of luck. I know you’ll do us proud.

  3. Robert says:

    WFA is pursuing the justice, which was thwarted by cowardly politicians, and making sure our constitution is enforced. Thank you WFA.

  4. […] Pro-Family Group Defends the People, the Constitution, and … Aug 18, 2010 … Pro-Family Group Defends the People, the Constitution, and Marriage in New Lawsuit. President and board members of Wisconsin Family Action ……/pro-family-group-defends-the-people-the-constitution-and-marriage-in-new-lawsuit/ […]

  5. Todd Taylor says:

    Yes, thank-you WFA for pursuing this issue. I find it ironic how riled-up people are getting over spending tax dollars on high-speed rail in Wisconsin yet we heard almost nothing when the government didn’t even ask us if we wanted to spend millions of dollars promoting an unhealthy lifestyle.

  6. Mark says:

    Why on earth would you object to domestic partnerships? These people cannot get married (you took care of that), so they need legal protections for hospital visitation, property inheritance, etc. You seriously want to deny a group of people any legal recognition at all? I’m sorry, but it’s apparent you’re battle has nothing to do with marriage, and is instead a mean-spirited attack.

    • Amy Lewis says:

      Mark: we object to the domestic partnership registry because of the reasons outlined in this press release as well as here. Right now, anyone can obtain legal contracts for hospital visitation rights, property inheritance, and the like. In fact, many married couples do this already because of the problems some of them have encountered, despite being legally married.

      Our objections rest on the fact that this domestic partnership registry violates the constitution by creating a legal status (a status that is entirely unnecessary to obtain the legal protections you mention) that is substantially similar to that of marriage.

      • Mark says:

        Amy, you and your organization hurt decent, loving families. The tides are turning and people increasingly recognize the inherent fairness of extending the same legal protections afforded to opposite-sex couples to same-sex couples. Despite the “the majority has spoken” argument you present in your FAQ, I suspect that when the majority votes in favor of same-sex marriage, you will not respectfully acknowledge the majority’s decision. Instead, you will adopt different talking points to support your crusade against those you do not like or whose existence doesn’t agree with your religious worldview. You may win near-term battles, but you will lose this war.



    • Taraj says:


      I would like you to address the property and inheritance issues more clearly. What do you mean? You can title property however you like. Married people have to title property as well. Same for inheritance. It’s called a “will” and nowadays, you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to pay for a will. Most married couples have wills as well. As for hospital visitation, that’s just plain “bunk” and if it’s true, start lobbying the hospitals to change their policies. This is about an institution that has been defined as one between a man and a woman ever since the institution was created. What this is “really” about is an agenda. Gays want acceptance. First it was tolerance, and they have that. Now they are moving towards forcing “acceptance.” From my own personal perspective, I really don’t care what two consenting adults do in the privacy of their own home. My concern is for the children. I really believe that children do BEST with a married mother and father. And puh-lease, do not give me the argument that there are many married dysfunctional heterosexual families out there. This is about what society should PROMOTE and sanction. And that is what’s best for kids….a married mom and dad. Please read this study… It confirms what I am saying.

      • William N. Platta says:

        Marriage is not about “fairness”. It does not have a human origin. It is not a “battle” that can be won or lost in the court of public opinion. It is timeless and will endure long after this generation has passed into oblivion. Whether or not the current “debate” results in re-defining the immutable/unchangable politically and socially, (which I strongly doubt it will) marriage is the sanest, happiest, highest, deepest, ordained-by-God state of human intercourse known to man. Put that in your pipe and smoke on it.

  7. Donna says:

    You are doing incredibly important work on our behalf thank you WFA!

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