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State’s High Court turns down partner registry appeal

Louis Weisberg, Staff writer

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has declined to take up a case challenging the constitutionality of the state’s domestic partnership registry law until it’s gone through the normal appeals process.

The case was initiated when Julaine Appling, head of Wisconsin Family Action, joined with other anti-gay activists to file a suit claiming the registry violated a  2006 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and any similar legal status for gay and lesbian couples.

Former Gov. Jim Doyle, D, enacted the law, which gives registered same-sex couples 41 of the more than 200 benefits the state offers married couples. A Dane County judge ruled last year that the registry does not violate the constitutional amendment because the relatively few rights it affords to couples do not mirror marriage.

Appling appealed that ruling, but the 4th District Court of Appeals sent the case directly to the Supreme Court in July.

“We perceive nothing particularly complicated in the parties’ dispute over the meaning of the marriage amendment and its application to Wisconsin’s domestic partnership law,” the appeals court wrote. “We therefore perceive no reason why the Supreme Court might benefit from the refinement of issues that sometimes occurs when a dispute first works its way through briefing and decision in the court of appeals. Thus, in light of the statewide importance of the issue and the desirability of a prompt and final resolution, we certify this appeal to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.” 

The state’s sharply divided high court, which has a right-wing majority, sent the case back to the appeals court, however, on a vote of 5-2. The two dissenting judges were liberal Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson and Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, who wanted to take up the case.

Madison insiders say two other justices on the court, conservatives David Prosser and Michael Gableman, are widely perceived to be gay, which could add another twist to the case when it does reach their courtroom. No matter how the District 4 Court of Appeals eventually rules, the losing side is certain to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.

The scenario surrounding the case is already complicated by Appling’s personal life. Never married, she has lived for many years with another never-married woman in a Watertown home that the women own jointly.

In a May interview with The Cap Times, Appling acknowledged feeling same-sex attraction, calling it universal.

“There’s not a person alive who hasn’t said, ‘Well, I wonder’ (about my sexual orientation),” Appling told Cap Times reporter Jack Craver.

Repeated studies have found a strong link between homophobia and repressed homosexual desire.

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