Peter J. Smith


Judge rules Wisconsin gay domestic partnership law legal, not similar to marriage

Peter J. Smith

MADISON, Wisconsin, June 21, 2011 ( – A circuit court judge has ruled that Wisconsin’s domestic partner registry law does not violate a voter-approved constitutional amendment banning same-sex “marriage” or a marriage-like legal status for homosexual couples.

“The state does not recognize domestic partnership in a way that mirrors how the state recognizes marriage,” Dane County Judge Daniel Moeser wrote in a ruling released Monday.

The constitutional amendment, which was approved by 59 percent of Wisconsin voters in 2006, states, “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.”

Pro-traditional marriage advocates argue that the domestic partnership law passed by a Democrat-controlled legislature in 2009 sets up an institution for homosexuals that parrots marriage.

However, the judge disagreed, saying “the state confers drastically different benefits, rights, and responsibilities to domestic partners solely by virtue of their domestic partnership status in comparison to the benefits, rights, and responsibilities given to spouses because of their marriage status.”

He concluded that voters intended solely to prevent Vermont-style “civil unions,” which would create a legal status for homosexuals that had all the rights and benefits of marriage, without the name “marriage.”

However, pro-marriage advocates, have noted that the law goes well beyond functioning as a mere legal economic arrangement between two co-dependent persons. Instead the eligibility requirements indicate the law is specifically designed for couples in a homosexual relationship: both applicants must be members of the same sex, at least 18 years old, share a common residence, no closer in kinship than second cousins, and cannot be married or in another domestic partnership.

The law also has same-sex couples seek “declarations” of domestic partnership, which traditional marriage supporters say are imitations of marriage licenses.

“We will appeal this decision because this domestic partnership scheme is precisely the type of marriage imitation that the voters intended to prevent,” said Austin R. Nimocks, Senior Legal Counsel with the Alliance Defense Fund, which is involved with the case.

The ADF is representing Wisconsin Family Action and its president Julaine Appling in the case, Appling et al. v. Doyle et al.

Appling said in a statement that the people of Wisconsin affirmed their belief in the “lifelong, faithful union of a man and a woman as the fundamental building block of civilization.”

“Our system of government serves no purpose if politicians can ignore the will of the people with impunity,” she said.

In 2009, then Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen had told then Governor Jim Doyle that he was refusing to defend the domestic partnership law from legal challenges, because it was “unconstitutional” and subverted the people’s intention to support marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

Judge Moeser’s full ruling can be read here.

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