Senate Democrats ask Van Hollen, Walker to drop defense of marriage inequality

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Democratic members of the Wisconsin Senate this week asked Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen to cease his defense of the state's ban on same-sex marriage.

Democratic members of the Wisconsin Senate this week asked Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen to cease his defense of the state's ban on same-sex marriage.

The ban has been declared unconstitutional by a federal district judge in Madison. There also have been 22 similar decisions striking the anti-gay laws and amendments in other states.

But Van Hollen has appealed the district court's finding to the Seventh Circuit in Chicago.

In a letter to the attorney general and also Gov. Scott Walker, 15 Democratic senators asked the Republican leaders to "cease your efforts to waste taxpayer dollars by defending Wisconsin's discriminatory ban on marriage equality. Multiple court decisions in various states have come to the same conclusion — denying the right to marriage is unconstitutional. Everyone is guaranteed equal protection under the law."

The senators wrote that Van Hollen's and Walker's continued efforts to "uphold an unconstitutional, discriminatory policy is contrary to the rights, freedoms and opportunities that should be equitably afforded to all Wisconsin citizens. The elected officials of our state should be working to move our state forward by growing our struggling economy, creating much-needed jobs, striving to achieve a quality education for every child and increasing access to affordable health care rather than supporting policies that will send our state backwards."

Voters approved the anti-gay constitutional amendment in 2006. Since then, public opinion has reversed and majorities across the country support the freedom to marry. Also, numerous courts have ruled for marriage equality and the number of states where same-sex couples can marry stands at 19, plus the District of Columbia.

In early June, ruling in a case brought by the ACLU and the ACLU of Wisconsin on behalf of same-sex couples in the state, a federal district judge declared that the amendment reserving marriage for a man and a woman and barring same-sex couples from marrying violates the U.S. Constitution.

Briefly, same-sex couples could marry in a majority of Wisconsin counties. But then Van Hollen secured a stay of the judge's decision and pushed forward with plans to appeal.

The senators signed on to the letter to Van Hollen and Walker include: Tim Cullen, Julie Lassa, Dave Hansen, Bob Jauch, Kathleen Vinehout, Bob Wirch, Lena Taylor, Jennifer Shilling, Chris Larson, Fred Risser, Nikiya Harris Dodd, John Lehman, Mark Miller, Tim Carpenter and Jon Erpenbach.

Briefs in the appeals case are due in early August and oral arguments are set for Aug. 13 in Chicago.

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