Victory! Wisconsin Supreme Court Upholds Domestic Partnership Registry in Lambda Legal Case

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July 31, 2014

Today the Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld the state’s domestic partnership registry as constitutional, bringing a joyful end to a long legal battle by Lambda Legal on behalf of Fair Wisconsin and five intervening defendant couples.

Lambda Legal Counsel Christopher Clark said:

We’re thrilled that Wisconsin same-sex couples can keep the limited but very important protections that the domestic partnership registry grants them. The statute is clearly constitutional, and the Supreme Court of Wisconsin agreed with us. Gay and lesbian couples in Wisconsin no longer have to fear that the protections they have will be taken away by unnecessary anti-gay legal action.

We also look forward to the day - fast approaching - when Wisconsin will join its neighbors to the south and west and the growing number of states across the country where same-sex couples have the freedom to marry, rendering limited domestic partnership registry unnecessary. Wisconsin same-sex couples are entitled to the full range of legal protections that only marriage provides.

In June 2009, Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle signed domestic partnerships into law, granting limited but important legal protections to same-sex couples, including hospital visitation and the ability to take a family medical leave to care for a sick or injured partner.

Wisconsin Family Action, an antigay group, brought a lawsuit in Dane County Circuit Court arguing that the domestic partnership law violates Wisconsin’s constitutional amendment barring marriage for same-sex couples and any legal status that is substantially similar to marriage.

Shortly thereafter, Lambda Legal successfully moved to intervene in the lawsuit on behalf of Fair Wisconsin and five same-sex couples. In December 2012, the Court of Appeals upheld the circuit court’s decision affirming the constitutionality of the domestic partnership law.  Wisconsin Family Action appealed that ruling to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Lambda Legal presented oral arguments in the Wisconsin Supreme Court in October 2013. With this ruling by the state’s highest court, the case is now concluded.

Katie Belanger, President and CEO of Fair Wisconsin said:

The Wisconsin State Legislature created the domestic partnership registry in accordance with the laws of the state, and we’re glad that we can finally move on from this long and unnecessary battle. We’re happy for the thousands of same-sex couples in Wisconsin that need the domestic partnership registry to protect themselves and their families. Wisconsin’s gay and lesbian couples can now rest a little easier, and we’re thankful for that. We must now continue to focus our attention on securing the freedom to marry for same-sex couples in Wisconsin.

Read the press release.