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Domestic partnership case to go before Supreme Court

By Jessica Arp, jarp@wisctv.com
Published On: Oct 22 2013 06:56:03 PM CDT
Updated On: Oct 22 2013 07:21:19 PM CDT

MADISON, Wis. -

Two advocacy groups are preparing for arguments on the state's domestic partnership registry to the State Supreme Court.

Justices will consider Wednesday whether that registry violates the state's constitution. Two lower courts have said it does not.

This case spans back a number of years. Starting in August of 2009, same-sex partners in Wisconsin could join a registry allowing them limited legal benefits as domestic partners. Months later, the conservative group Wisconsin Family Action filed suit saying that violated a constitutional amendment passed in 2006 prohibiting "substantially similar" institutions to marriage.

"The requirements to be in the registry are exactly the same requirements they are to be in a marriage," said Julaine Appling, president of Wisconsin Family Action.

Appling said attorneys will argue that case Wednesday with hopes that the Supreme Court overturns two lower court decisions saying the law is constitutional.

"Quite honestly Branch 4 of the Court of Appeals and the Dane County Circuit Court are hardly branches of our judiciary that would be in sympathy with us," said Appling.

Fair Wisconsin, a same-sex marriage advocacy group, stepped in to defend the law on behalf of five state couples when Gov. Scott Walker abandoned the registry defense in 2011. That group believes the law is on their side.

"People's understanding for the need for caring and committed couples has certainly moved forward since 2006," said Katie Belanger, president of Fair Wisconsin. "The one thing made clear to voters in that campaign is that the constitutional amendment would in no way prohibit the state from putting together a limited package of legal protections for same sex couples."

If the registry is upheld as constitutional, Appling said her organization will "double down" on outreach to Wisconsin about the value of "traditional marriage."

If the decision is reversed, Fair Wisconsin said they will redouble their efforts to pressure lawmakers on reversing the constitutional amendment.

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