Wisconsin Supreme Court to hear domestic partner registry case

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MichaelGableman

Justice Michael Gableman

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has decided to hear a challenge to the state’s domestic partner registry.

The registry grants same-sex couples a handful of basic legal rights. But members of the fundamentalist Christian and pro-corporate group Wisconsin Family Action filed a lawsuit in 2010 alleging that the registry violates a 2006 state constitutional amendment prohibiting gay marriage or anything substantially similar.

The 4th District Court of Appeals in December upheld the registry, listing a number of rights married couples enjoy that same-sex couples can’t obtain through the registry.

Signed into law by Gov. Jim Doyle in 2009, the registry provides 43 select rights, such as the ability to inherit a partner's estate in the absence of a will, hospital visitation, and the ability to access family medical leave to care for a sick partner. By contrast, marriage in Wisconsin confers more than 200 rights and protections to heterosexual couples.

Wisconsin's domestic partnership registry does not allow two-parent adoptions by persons of the same sex, which remains illegal in the state.

The Supreme Court's spokesman issued a statement Friday saying the court would take the case, but the statement didn't include an explanation. It's unclear when the court might hear arguments or render a decision.

The court is dominated by right-wing conservatives who have consistently supported the state’s GOP and Gov. Scott Walker. Two of those conservatives have long been rumored to be gay, and one of the purportedly gay judges has apparently been partnered for many years.

Adding another unusual twist to the case is plaintiff Julaine Appling, who heads Wisconsin Family Action. Appling has never married and has lived for decades with another never-married woman. The two own a home jointly in Watertown.

This story will be updated.