High court will decide whether state’s marriage-mimicking
scheme violates marriage protection amendment
MADISON, Wis. —The Wisconsin Supreme Court has agreed to weigh in on the full meaning of Wisconsin’s marriage amendment and whether it authorizes the creation of other marriage-like unions.
Last year, a state appellate court decision upheld a lower court’s ruling that said the amendment permits the state legislature to create marriage-mimicking schemes despite language in the amendment that prohibits any “legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals.”
“Marriage–the union of husband and wife–is timeless, universal, and special; and it’s the foundation of every healthy, stable society. The people of Wisconsin recognize this, and that is why they approved a constitutional amendment that specifically protects marriage from all imitators,” said Julaine Appling, president of Wisconsin Family Action and one of the plaintiffs in the case. “The state’s domestic partnership scheme is precisely the type of marriage imitation that the voters intended to prevent.”
The lawsuit, Appling v. Doyle, was filed in Dane County Circuit Court in 2010 to stop then-Gov. Jim Doyle and the state legislature from skirting the language in the voter-approved constitutional amendment protecting marriage. Appling and five other individuals who are also members of the board of directors of Wisconsin Family Action are the plaintiffs in the case.
The “domestic partnership” plan, which Doyle proposed and signed into law after passage by the Legislature as part of the 2009-11 state budget, is only available to same-sex couples. “Domestic partners” receive “declarations” instead of “marriage licenses,” but otherwise, the procedures for creating the legal status of domestic partner is virtually the same as creating the legal status of married.
In November 2006, 59 percent of Wisconsin voters approved Article 13, Section 13, of the Wisconsin Constitution, which 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.” In June 2010, the Wisconsin Supreme Court unanimously upheld the validity of the entire amendment’s enactment.
“The bottom line is that the will of the people of Wisconsin as clearly expressed in the marriage amendment ought to be respected,” said Appling. “State officials cannot ignore a voter-approved law just because they don’t like it.”