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ADF files suit to stop violation of Wis. marriage amendment

Lawsuit seeks to stop legislative end-run around voters, state constitution
Related Case:
“Just Who do We Think We Are?”

MADISON, Wis. — Alliance Defense Fund attorneys together with allied attorneys representing Wisconsin Family Action officers and board members filed suit in state court Wednesday to stop the governor and state legislature from skirting a voter-approved constitutional amendment protecting marriage. The lawsuit asks the court to halt the state’s “domestic partnership” scheme because it creates a legal status substantially similar to that of marriage, which directly violates Article 13, Section 13, of the Wisconsin Constitution.

“Politicians shouldn’t defy the will of voters who legitimately amended the Wisconsin Constitution in a fair election,” said ADF Senior Counsel Brian Raum. “This domestic partnership scheme is precisely the type of marriage imitation that the constitutional amendment approved by Wisconsin voters was intended to prevent. Those who are determined to tamper with marriage in Wisconsin are attempting an end-run attack hoping they can evade the clear language of the state constitution.”

The scheme, proposed and signed into law by Gov. Jim Doyle after passage by the Legislature as part of the 2010-11 state budget, is available only to couples involved in a same-sex relationship. “Domestic partners” receive “declarations” instead of “marriage licenses,” but otherwise, the procedures for becoming domestic partners and becoming husband and wife are virtually the same.

In November 2006, 59 percent of Wisconsin voters approved an amendment to the state constitution that 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, the Wisconsin Supreme Court unanimously upheld the validity of the entire amendment’s enactment.

“Our system of government serves no purpose if our elected officials can completely and capriciously ignore the will of the people with impunity,” said Wisconsin Family Action President Julaine Appling, lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, Appling v. Doyle, filed in the Dane County Circuit Court. “A reasonable person observing this registry would easily conclude that it is intended to mirror marriage.  It borrows the requirements and eligibility standards for marriage, even to the point of requiring that the price of the registry certificate be the same as for a marriage license.”

Alliance Defense Fund attorneys are lead counsel representing Appling and Wisconsin Family Action board members together with Mike Dean with the First Freedoms Foundation and Richard M. Esenberg, two of more than 1,800 attorneys in the ADF alliance. Wisconsin Family Action was the primary proponent of the Wisconsin marriage amendment before voters adopted it into the state constitution.

ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.