Playing by Another Rule Book – Wisconsin Domestic Partner Registry Mimics Marriage

From the desk of Wisconsin Family Action president, Julaine Appling:

Image“I’ve often opined that it’s virtually impossible to read the mind of an individual Supreme Court justice, whether at the federal or state level. For sure it’s difficult to read the collective mind of the entire court, especially since the courts get to pretty much make their own rules and, of course, change their own rules.  It’s one of the pesky parts of an “independent” judiciary.

As a brief rabbit trail, no branch of our government is truly and completely autonomous.  They are independent from one another only to the extent that our checks and balances system allows.  Each branch is to have some measure of control over the other.  Some seem to think that the legislative branch and the executive branch should have no check on the judiciary.  That is not how this Republic was designed to work.  Thus, a bill such as the one Representative Dave Craig just had passed in the state Assembly makes sense.  I think the senate should get going and pass it too.

Typically what happens is a lawsuit is brought against a law that the state legislature has passed.  The lawsuit gets brought in a county circuit court. If a judge there rules that the law is unconstitutional, he or she can then slap an injunction on the law, which means the law cannot be implemented until another judge in the process rules differently and removes the injunction.  The appeal process can be extremely protracted in Wisconsin.  Rep. Craig’s bill would allow an immediate appeal of the circuit court decision, an action that would immediately remove the injunction until a higher court, either an appeals court or the state Supreme Court, makes a decision on the appeal.

Such a bill is not reducing or infringing upon the independence of the court; it is checking the typically protracted appeals process in matters of duly enacted law by duly elected legislators. Frankly, I think it’s a great example of how our checks and balances should work.  For too long, some courts have acted as if they are so independent as to be immune to any legislative checks.

That was a rather lengthy rabbit trail, but it’s an important one.


Sign posted at Dane County Courthouse.

Now back to the central story.  Back in 2010, members of the Wisconsin Family Action board of directors filed a lawsuit in the Dane County Circuit Court, alleging that the same-sex-only, statewide domestic partnership registry that then-Governor Doyle and his legislative cronies passed as a part of the state budget was unconstitutional.  The case is known as Appling v. Doyle—and yes, that’s me wearing another hat.

The constitutional amendment in Article 13, Section 13 of the Wisconsin Constitution says no legal status identical to or substantially similar to the legal status of marriage is legal or valid in this state.  The domestic partnership registry is at a minimum, substantially similar to marriage.  One gets the legal status of “domestic partnership” essentially the exact same way one gets the legal status of “married.”  Plaintiffs brought the lawsuit to protect the institution of marriage, the will of Wisconsin voters who voted for the marriage protection amendment, and the Wisconsin constitution.

The plaintiffs lost at the circuit court level, and in 2011 appealed the case to Branch 4 of the Court of Appeals, which headquarters in Madison.  In July 2012, the Court of Appeals asked the Supreme Court to take the case directly.  In September 2012, the State Supreme Court, without explanation, denied the request.

So, the Court of Appeals issued its decision on Appling v. Doyle the weekend before Christmas last year.  I know this will shock you since this was a Madison-based court, but the Court of Appeals agreed with the circuit court that the registry is constitutional. That decision prompted a timely plaintiffs’ appeal in mid-January of this year, this time to the final word in this case, the state Supreme Court.

Until last Friday, we heard nothing from Wisconsin’s highest court on this case.  On Friday, plaintiffs discovered quite by accident that last Wednesday the State Supreme Court had decided to take this case.  It was fairly obvious the court was playing by its own rules.  The decision to take the case was technically made public sometime on June 12 since it was on the state’s online system.  My take is the court figured they were under no obligation, according to their rules, to make a big announcement on this—and the longer it stayed off people’s radar screen, the better, they likely reasoned.

What next, you ask?  We wait.  Again.  We pray.  Again.   As usual, we play by the court’s rules, respecting their independence, knowing they are most assuredly not independent of Almighty God.”

WFA President Julaine Appling “FORWARD” in 2013

A personal video message from WFA President Julaine Appling that discusses the Religious Freedom Amendment,  Spring Elections, and more!

Here in WISCONSIN: The Battle to Destroy God’s Plan for Marriage

The battle to destroy God’s plan for marriage continues right here in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin Family Action received word last Friday that Branch 4 of the Wisconsin Supreme Court had issued a ruling on the court case that WFA president Julaine Appling and several WFA board members had filed against the statewide, same-sex-only domestic partnership registry (Appling v. Doyle).  The Court of Appeals’ ruling went against us–and against marriage, the WI constitution and the 1.25 million voters who in 2006 voted to protect marriage. (Click here to read our press release.)

To be clear: Wisconsin Family Action (WFA) is committed to standing for the true, life-giving, and only definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.  WFA has already consulted with our attorneys, and will appeal this ruling to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.   

While this case is very important, it is just one of the battles WFA is engaged with for marriage.  Fair Wisconsin, the state’s main pro-homosexual group, has made it very clear that in addition to supporting the domestic partnership registry, their real plan is to overturn the marriage amendment; in essence, destroy marriage as God has ordained it.  We know from experience they are able to very quickly get their false message to millions.

Julaine Appling, WFA president stated, “When you and I don’t provide pro-active resistance to their plans, those determined to destroy the foundational institution of marriage always make progress.”

As partners we are strong; YOU and WFA are able to do a great deal to thwart those plans.

Being involved in this issue and the other issues WFA deals with requires significant financial resources.  Lawsuits are costly but very necessary.  Public awareness campaigns aren’t cheap; but they too are important in strengthening, preserving, and promoting marriage in the Badger State. Advocating in the state legislature for marriage, family, life and liberty also comes with a price tag.  But it is a “must” if we are going to pass legislation that strengthens, preserves and promotes these core institutions.

Partner with us to make a difference.

Team up with WFA to preserve marriage in the state of Wisconsin.

Together we are strong.

Click HERE to learn how you can partner with WFA in this most critical work of standing strong for marriage.

Prosser wins – what it means for Wisconsin

Yesterday, almost two months after the State Supreme Court election, JoAnne Kloppenburg finally conceded the race to Justice David Prosser.  Even after the long and tedious recount process, Prosser still led by a margin of 7,000+ votes and it was  evident that a court challenge likely wouldn’t change that.

What does Prosser’s reelection to the State Supreme Court mean for Wisconsin?  The most significant outcome of the finally over election is that Wisconsin retains a conservative majority on the highest court in the state, 4-3.  Court observers predicted that a Kloppenburg win would have moved the bench to a liberal majority.  In fact, after the high-profile, expensive, contentious Supreme Court race and the drawn-out recount process, it appears that the conservative bloc on the bench is more solidified than ever before.

Considering the significance of the cases that will likely end up before the State Supreme Court in the next few years, the judicial philosophy of the justices on the bench is as important as everyone made it out to be.  Wisconsin’s State Supreme Court will likely consider cases challenging

  1. The new Voter ID law
  2. Gov. Doyle’s same-sex-only, statewide domestic partnership registry (Appling, et. al., v. Doyle, et. al.)
  3. Gov. Walker’s policy significantly limiting collective bargaining for public employees
  4. The rules regulating guardianship for child custody cases
  5.  Religious liberty in the public square
  6. The defunding of Planned Parenthood in Gov. Walker’s 2012-2013 state budget
That’s just a small sampling of the kind of cases Wisconsin’s high court will likely decide in the next few years.  And there is some merit in the claim that our State Supreme Court is one of the more influential courts in the country–the high court’s decisions could have far-reaching impact beyond our state.
The outcome of this race was hugely significant and also rather telling.  Coming, as it did, on the heals of the most contentious public policy battle in recent state history, the race received far more attention than it would have otherwise.  With 1.5 million votes cast, and a 7,000-vote margin, it highlighted the deep divide in Wisconsin politics, a divide that will no doubt continue into the recall election cycle.

Perpetual Campaign

This week’s radio commentary…

After the whirlwind of the November 2010 elections and the preceding campaign season, you may have thought, as I did, that once we got through a low-key State Supreme Court election this April we’d be without campaigns and elections for a year. Boy, were we wrong!

The budget adjustment bill and ensuing Capitol changed all that.

We believe holding elected officials accountable is important and necessary.  However, holding elected officials accountable by attempting to force a recall election for every legislator eligible for recall is a relatively new strategy. A recall is a constitutional provision for removing an elected officer. Typically, we would want to ensure that a legislator had committed a serious infraction of rules, laws, standards of behavior or common decency before instituting a recall campaign.

A recall is no small matter, particularly since there’s a good possibility it could change the outcome of last November’s election

Read the rest here.

Listen to/download the MP3 file.

Feingold & Kohl approve–again–two-time loser Louis Butler

Yesterday, the US Senate Judiciary Committee  on a 12-7 partisan vote approved former Wisconsin State Supreme Court Justice Louis Butler as a federal district judge. Both of Wisconsin’s senators, Russ Feingold (D) and Herb Kohl (D) are on the Judiciary Committee and both voted for Butler and several other Obama nominees.  The full Senate will likely sit for quite awhile before acting on these nominees.

This is the second time Feingold and Kohl have voted to approve Butler for this position. As a matter of record, yes, Butler is the former Milwaukee County judge who ran for the State Supreme Court in 2000 and was soundly defeated by Diane Sykes.   In 2004, when Sykes took a federal judgeship, Gov. Jim Doyle appointed Butler to the State Supreme Court–a position incumbent Justice Butler managed to lose in 2008 when challenger Justice Mike Gableman beat him.

So, now Feingold and Kohl have given this two-time loser–a judge “we the people” keep rejecting–yet another opportunity for a lifetime appointment.  Obviously, Feingold and Kohl care more about party unity than representing their constituents.  Yet another glaring example of what’s wrong with our government.

Engaged Electorate

This week’s radio commentary…

Finally—some good news! Late last Friday night we learned that the Wisconsin Supreme Court had just issued a ruling saying that Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board (GAB) cannot implement or enforce the new rules they put in place August 1–rules that would infringe on the free speech rights of individual citizens and organizations during elections.

Read the rest here…

Download/listen to the MP3

A Win for Marriage and the Will of the People

This weeks’ radio commentary (a few days late!):

Seven to zero. It’s not every day that our State Supreme Court hands down a unanimous ruling, but last week was one of those rare times when that’s exactly what happened.

Four years ago, after two consecutive legislatures approved the amendment, the people of Wisconsin voted 59.4% to 41.6% to protect the definition and institution of marriage in this state with a Marriage Protection Amendment. The very next year, a Wisconsin voter, Professor Bill McConkey, filed a lawsuit against the state claiming the amendment violated the state’s constitutional rule that an amendment address only one subject.

Read the rest…

Download the mp3…

Wisconsin Supreme Court Upholds State’s Marriage Protection Amendment!

High Court unanimously affirms the state’s marriage amendment is constitutional

Madison – “Marriage and the will of the people are the clear winners in this decision,” said Julaine Appling, President of Wisconsin Family Council. “When Wisconsin voters passed the marriage amendment in 2006 by almost 60%, they recognized the purpose of the amendment was clear and simple: to protect the institution of marriage. The Wisconsin Supreme Court reinforced that purpose in their decision.”

Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) filed an amicus, or “friend of the court,” brief on behalf of Wisconsin Family Council in this case.

“Once again, activists tried to use the courts to force something on the people that they have repeatedly and overwhelmingly rejected.” said ADF Litigation Counsel Jim Campbell. “We should be strengthening—not undermining—marriage, which is one man and one woman.”

McConkey v. Van Hollen, in which Prof. Bill McConkey claims the amendment deals with two subjects rather than one as required by the constitution, began at the trial level in 2007 where Dane County Circuit Court Judge Richard Niess upheld the amendment’s constitutionality in 2008, stating in his decision that the single purpose of the amendment is “the preservation of the unique and historical status of marriage.”

McConkey appealed the decision to the District IV Court of Appeals. In early 2009, the appellate court opted to move the case up to the Wisconsin Supreme Court without acting on it; and in May of 2009, the Supreme Court accepted the case. Last November, the Court heard the oral arguments from McConkey’s attorney and the State Attorney General’s office.

Today, the Supreme Court released its opinion, stating:

…The two propositions contained in the marriage amendment plainly relate to the subject of marriage. And as the text of the amendment and context of its adoption make clear, the general purpose of the marriage amendment is to preserve the legal status of marriage in Wisconsin as between only one man and one woman. Both propositions in the marriage amendment relate to and are connected with this purpose. Therefore, the marriage amendment does not violate the separate amendment rule of Article XII, Section 1 of the Wisconsin Constitution. Rather, the marriage amendment was adopted by the people of Wisconsin using the process prescribed by the constitution, and is properly now part of our constitution.

“The lawsuit’s accusation that the marriage amendment addresses multiple subjects was just a sneaky attempt to tear down what the voters clearly wanted,” said Appling. “The very reason we passed the marriage amendment was to protect marriage in our state from redefinition by judicial fiat. The court was right to reject this baseless lawsuit. Judges and politicians should never toss aside the will of the people in order to impose a system that intentionally deprives children of a mom and dad. Which parent doesn’t matter: a mom or a dad?”

WFC and ADF remain committed to protecting marriage in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin Family Council is a statewide, not-for-profit organization advancing Judeo Christian principles and values in Wisconsin by strengthening and preserving marriage, family, life and liberty.