Wisconsin Supreme Court
Constitutional Law — same-sex marriage; domestic partnerships
The domestic partnership law does not violate the constitutional ban on same-sex marriages.
“The plain language of the Amendment prohibits only a status ‘identical or substantially similar to’ marriage, and by implication it does not prohibit what is not identical or substantially similar thereto. There are important statutory distinctions in the way the state treats marriage and domestic partnerships and important differences in the lists of benefits and obligations that inhere in the two types of relationships. In light of the totality of those differences, Plaintiffs have not overcome the presumption that Chapter 770 is constitutional.”
“Our conclusion is supported by evidence from the drafting and ratification process — evidence in the drafting files that the framers of the Amendment intended specifically to allow legislation that provided a set of rights and benefits to same-sex couples. We are supported in our conclusion by evidence that voters were repeatedly told by Amendment proponents that the Amendment simply would not preclude a mechanism for legislative grants of certain rights to same-sex couples. We see no evidence that voters who approved the Amendment saw it as permitting those rights to be granted only in the kind of scheme Plaintiffs now suggest——that is, in cohabiting domestic relationships that bear no resemblance at all to marriage, with same-sex couples only as incidental beneficiaries. Of course the Amendment’s opponents put out a different message to voters, but as the court of appeals noted, it makes sense to credit the notion, when the proponents prevail in a referendum, that theirs was the message that resonated with the majority of voters. Finally, our conclusion draws additional support, although limited, from the legislature’s careful adoption of the first legislative act following the Marriage Amendment, adoption of Chapter 770 itself.”
Attorneys: For Appellant: Dean, Michael D., Brookfield; Nimocks, Austin R., Scottsdale, Ariz.; Campbell, James A., Scottsdale, Ariz.; Raum, Brian W., Scottsdale, Ariz.; Dean, Michael D., Brookfield; For Respondent: Hagedorn, Brian K., Madison; Butler, Brian E., Madison; Neider, Barbara A., Madison; Clark, Christopher R., Chicago, Ill.