Appling v. Doyle - Case Profile
Defending Wisconsin domestic partnerships
|Judy Trampf and Katy Heyning, one of the couples seeking to become part of the lawsuit that will determine the fate of domestic partnerships in Wisconsin.|
The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a motion before the Dane County Circuit Court on behalf of five same-sex couples asking that the couples be allowed to participate in a lawsuit that will decide whether the state’s domestic partner law violates Wisconsin’s anti-gay marriage amendment. Anti-gay activists have asked the Court to strike down the domestic partner law as inconsistent with the marriage amendment.
Prior to the current lawsuit, the same activists petitioned the Wisconsin Supreme Court directly, claiming that they needed a speedy trial because the modest legal protections granted to same-sex couples through the law somehow affected the marriages of straight couples. The Wisconsin Supreme Court dismissed the case, leaving the petitioners the option of filing in circuit court. Our motion to intervene was denied, but we were given leave to file an amicus brief. The trial court ruled against the plaintiffs who have now appealed that ruling. We also filed an amicus in the court of appeals arguing that the trial court’s decision should be affirmed.
The ACLU’s amicus brief on appeal responded to the plaintiffs’ argument that Wisconsin’s anti-gay marriage amendment prevented the state from providing domestic partner benefits by showing that the benefits provided by local Wisconsin government employers at the time of the constitutional amendment campaign were defined in the same way as the law currently challenged by the plaintiffs. This similarity means that when people voted for the anti-gay amendment, they intended to preserve the benefits provided by the state-wide domestic partner act. Our brief also demonstrated that the plaintiffs’ original assurance to voters during that amendment campaign that domestic partner benefits were safe, followed by their assertion of the opposite after they secured passage of the amendment, offers another reason under long-standing legal principles to deny plaintiffs the striking down of the state’s limited domestic partner law.
Status: After a victory in the circuit court, this case moved to the Wisconsin court of appeals. The ACLU submitted an amicus brief in 2011. In December 2012, the court upheld the state’s law granting domestic partnership protections to same-sex couples.