Wis. Governor Wants to Stop Defending State DP Registry

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Taking a page from the Democratic playbook, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has asked a court to allow his administration to stop defending the state’s domestic partner registry from a constitutional attack. Here is an excerpt from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article describing the somewhat tortured history of the defense of this lawsuit:

Gov. Scott Walker believes a new law that gives gay couples hospital visitation rights violates the state constitution and has asked a judge to allow the state to stop defending it.

Democrats who controlled the Legislature in 2009 changed the law so that same-sex couples could sign up for domestic partnership registries with county clerks to secure some – but not all – of the rights afforded married couples.

Wisconsin Family Action sued last year in Dane County circuit court, arguing that the registries violated a 2006 amendment to the state constitution that bans gay marriage and any arrangement that is substantially similar.

Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen refused to defend the lawsuit, saying he agreed the new law violated the state constitution. Then-Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat, hired Madison attorney Lester Pines to defend the state.

Walker, a Republican, replaced Doyle in January and fired Pines in March. On Friday, Walker filed a motion to stop defending the case.

“Governor Walker, in deference to the legal opinion of the attorney general that the domestic partner registry…is unconstitutional, does not believe the public interest requires a continued defense of this law,” says the brief, filed by Walker’s chief counsel, Brian Hagedorn.

Hagedorn told Dane County Circuit Judge Daniel Moeser that if he could not withdraw from the case, he would like to amend earlier filings to reflect Walker’s belief that the registries conflict with the state constitution.

Even if Walker is allowed to withdraw from the case, the law would still be defended in court because gay rights group Fair Wisconsin intervened in the case last year.

-Tony Infanti

 

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