(Madison, WI) The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled Thursday that state law, while affirming marriage as the union of one man and one woman, also permits separate domestic partnerships for same-sex couples even though a voter-approved constitutional amendment prohibits any “legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals.” The high court’s decision upholds a 2012 decision from the Wisconsin Court of Appeals.
“Believing that society should strengthen marriage, the people of Wisconsin approved a constitutional amendment that affirms marriage as the union of one man and one woman only. While the Wisconsin Supreme Court has chosen not to invalidate the state’s domestic partnership scheme, the court nonetheless affirmed that domestic partnerships for same-sex couples are not like marriage, maintaining marriage as a unique legal status,” said ADF Senior Counsel Austin R. Nimocks, who argued before the high court in October of last year.
A group of taxpayers filed the lawsuit Appling v. Doyle in 2010 claiming that the legislatively created domestic partnerships were substantially similar to marriage. The taxpayers claimed that the domestic partnership plan, which Gov. Doyle proposed and signed into law as part of the 2010-11 state budget, was only available to same-sex couples and was, at its core, virtually identical to marriage.
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.
“Marriage benefits society – especially children – like no other relationship can,” said Wisconsin Family Action President Julaine Appling. “The uniqueness of that union is the reason marriage was established and the reason voters approved Wisconsin’s marriage amendment. Today marriage remains a one-man, one-woman union in Wisconsin.”
ADF attorneys were lead counsel in the suit together with co-counsel Mike Dean of the First Freedoms Foundation and co-counsel Richard M. Esenberg, two of more than 2,400 attorneys allied with ADF.