US: Wisconsin Supreme Court rules in favour of domestic partnership registry

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Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled unanimously Thursday that a state law providing benefits to same-sex couples in domestic partnerships does not violate the state’s ban on same-sex marriages.

The ruling keeps the state’s domestic partnership registry active while the state’s same-sex marriage case is pending.

Anti-gay group Wisconsin Family Action filed the lawsuit in 2010, alleging the domestic partnership registry violated the state ban on same-sex marriage.

An appeals court ruled in December 2012 that the registry did not violate the state’s marriage ban.

The Supreme Court said in their ruling the voter-approved amendment banning same-sex marriage is not intended to deny certain rights to same-sex couples.

Justice N Patrick Crooks wrote in the decision: “We see no evidence that voters who approved the Amendment saw it as permitting those rights to be granted only in the kind of scheme Plaintiffs now suggest – that is, in cohabiting domestic relationships that bear no resemblance at all to marriage.”

The law gives registered couples limited legal rights usually reserved for married couples, including the right to hospital visitation and the right to make end-of-life decisions.

About 2,300 couples have signed up to be on the registry over the past five years.

Christopher Clark, attorney for Lambda Legal, said in a release: “We’re thrilled that Wisconsin same-sex couples can keep the limited but very important protections that the domestic partnership registry grants them.

“We also look forward to the day – fast approaching – when Wisconsin will join its neighbors to the south and west and the growing number of states across the country where same-sex couples have the freedom to marry, rendering limited domestic partnership registry unnecessary.

“Wisconsin same-sex couples are entitled to the full range of legal protections that only marriage provides.”

A federal judge struck down Wisconsin’s same-sex marriage ban on 7 June.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals will hear Wisconsin’s same-sex marriage case on 26 August.