US: Wisconsin court rules in favour of same sex domestic partnership registry

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An appeals court ruled on Friday that Wisconsin’s same sex domestic partnership registry does not violate a state constitutional amendment which bans marriage equality.

The domestic partnership registry allows gay couples some rights, and benefits, reported Reuters.

The three-judge panel in Wisconsin wrote: “Domestic partnerships carry with them substantially fewer rights and obligations than those enjoyed by and imposed on married couples.”

The rights offered by the registry would include hospital visits, family medical leave to care for an ill partner, health benefits under a partner’s insurance, and the right to inherit assets upon the death of a partner.

The registry was created in 2009 under democratic Governor, Jim Doyle, has more than 2,000 couples on it, said Fair Wisconsin, an equal-rights organisation.

In 2006, voters in Wisconsin approved a referendum to add a consitutional amendment banning marriage equality.

But back in 2009, Wisconsin’s Supreme Court threw out a legal challenge to the state’s domestic partnerships law by Wisconsin Family Action which claimed the domestic partnerships law was unconstitutional because it said that it mimics marriage. 

Scott Walker, the Republican governor of Wisconsin, previously said he wanted to stop defending the registry, and told a judge he also believed the law is unconstitutional.

Julaine Appling, president of Wisconsin Family Action, anti-equal marriage campaign group, said: “The people of Wisconsin have strongly affirmed the lifelong, faithful union of a man and a woman as the fundamental building block of civilisation.”

Christopher Clark, an attorney with Lambda Legal, an equal rights advocacy group, said:

“We fought off this ugly attack against the rights and protections currently available to same-sex couples and their families in Wisconsin – a sweet holiday present to loving couples and families.”

The case was brought to the Court of Appeals after a Dane County judge ruled against the Wisconsin Family Action lawsuit last year.

Earlier this month, the US Supreme Court agreed to take up California’s ban on same-sex marriage, a case that could give the justices the chance to rule on whether gay Americans have the same constitutional right to marry as heterosexuals.