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Wisconsin appeals court upholds domestic partnership registry

Wisconsin's 4th District Court of Appeals ruled [opinion, PDF] Thursday that the state's domestic partnership registry does not infringe on the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. Plaintiff Wisconsin Family Action [advocacy website] challenged the Domestic Partnership Registry [Wisc. Stats. 770 text, PDF] as unconstitutional pursuant to the Marriage Amendment to Wisconsin's Constitution [materials], which provides, "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." The appeals court rejected this claim, finding that the domestic partnership registry is not "substantially similar" to marriage:

This case is not about whether the Wisconsin or United States Constitutions require, on equal protection or other grounds, that same-sex couples have the right to a legally recognized relationship that is identical or substantially similar to marriage. To the contrary, for the domestic partnership law to pass muster here, the "legal status" created by that law may not be "substantially similar" to the "legal status" of marriage. Because the legal and evidentiary arguments of the parties persuade us that the two are not "substantially similar," we affirm the circuit court's decision holding that the domestic partnership law does not violate the marriage amendment.
The decision affirms a ruling by a lower court [JURIST report] last year. The domestic partnership registry was defended by Fair Wisconsin [advocacy website] after Governor Scott Walker and Attorney General JB Van Hollen [official websites] refused to do so.

Same-sex marriage [JURIST backgrounder] remains controversial throughout the US, with states taking various approaches. Earlier this week the Montana Supreme Court [official website] affirmed [JURIST report] a lower court's dismissal of a lawsuit seeking legal status for same-sex relationships. Like Wisconsin, Montana also has a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman. Earlier this month Washington Governor Christine Gregoire certified the results of Referendum 74 [JURIST report] which legalized same-sex marriage in the state. Washington had previously recognized domestic partnerships [JURIST report]. Also in December the US Supreme Court [official website] agreed to rule [JURIST report] on two cases dealing with same-sex marriage. In Hollingsworth v. Perry [docket] the court will consider the validity of Proposition 8 [JURIST news archive], a California referendum that revoked same-sex marriage rights. In United States v. Windsor [docket] the court will examine the constitutionality of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) [text; JURIST news archive].

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