Wisconsin Partnership Law Fought as Too Like Marriage

Wisconsin’s domestic partnership law should be struck down because it too closely mimics marriage, violating a state constitutional amendment, lawyers for a group of taxpayers told the state’s highest court.

The plaintiffs, who first sued in 2010, asked the seven-member court in Madison to reverse lower-court rulings that upheld the domestic partnership provision signed into law in 2009 by former Governor Jim Doyle, a Democrat.

“We are asking the court to declare the law unconstitutional in its entirety,” taxpayers’ lawyer Austin Nimocks told the judges today. The domestic partnership law can’t be saved by striking only parts of it, said Nimocks, an attorney the with Scottsdale, Arizona-based organization Alliance Defending Freedom.

The hearing before the Wisconsin Supreme Court comes two days after New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a Republican, withdrew his appeal of a Sept. 27 trial court ruling recognizing same-sex marriage right under that state’s constitution. New Jersey is the 14th state to legalize gay weddings.

The administration of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, a Republican, declined to defend the domestic partnership measure. The gay rights advocacy group Fair Wisconsin is defending the law in court.

Same-sex couples would lose dozens of benefits if the law is overturned, Christopher R. Clark, the lead lawyer for Lambda Legal Defense Education Fund, said in court.

“There are very real ramifications for same-sex couples and their families,” Clark said. “Wisconsin would be taking a real step back.”

The case is Appling v. Walker, 2011AP1572, Wisconsin Supreme Court (Madison).

To contact the reporters on this story: Andrew Harris in federal court in Chicago at aharris16@bloomberg.net; Marie Rohde in Wisconsin Supreme Court in Madison, Wisconsin, at fmarierohde@gmail.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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