Same-sex marriage to be debated in U.S. Supreme Court - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Same-sex marriage to be debated in U.S. Supreme Court

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MADISON (WKOW) -- As people have been lining up outside the United State Supreme Court in Washington to hear two cases regarding same-sex marriage, some advocacy groups say the federal ruling could have an impact on a Wisconsin case.

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments for two controversial cases: The first, on Tuesday, regards Proposition 8, banning same-sex marriage in California.  On Wednesday, justices will hear another case involving the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a federal law enacted in 1996 and which defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

"When you have cases of this magnitude and they affect federal law, the impact is sweeping," said Julaine Appling, president of Wisconsin Family Action, an advocacy group against same-sex marriage.

Appling is the lead petitioner in Appling v. Doyle, a law suit seeking to declare Wisconsin's domestic partnership registry unconstitutional. The 4th District Court of Appeals ruled the registry as constitutional in December 2012; however, Appling is taking the suit to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, where the case is currently awaiting a hearing.

Created in 2009, the domestic partnership registry allows same-sex couples who are on it limited legal rights, including the right to make end-of-life decisions for one another and family medical leave. About 1,850 couples were on the registry at the end of 2011, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services' most recent data.

"The legal status [domestic partner registry gives same-sex couples] mimics marriage, and that is exactly what our amendment was designed to thwart," Appling said, referring to Wisconsin Referendum 1, which banned same-sex marriages and any substantially similar legal status in 2006.  

The intervening counsel for the defendant in Appling v. Doyle is Fair Wisconsin. The LGBT advocacy group says it expects the same legal victories it has had in the circuit and appeals court should the state supreme court decide to hear the case

"The very limited legal protections our state provides from the registry in no way violates our state's constitutional amendment. We are confident that the United States Supreme Court will find that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional and portions of the Defense of Marriage Act will be struck down," said Katie Belanger, executive director of Fair Wisconsin.

Belangar, however, does not believe the U.S. Supreme Court's decisions regarding California's Proposition 8 or DOMA will have any bearing on same-sex marriage laws or cases such as Appling v. Doyle on the state level.

However, "the important piece of these outcomes is what it means for our country in terms of moving forward on issues of equality and continuing to expand marriage equality and the protections that it provides to caring and committed same-sex couples," Belanger said.

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on Proposition 8 and DOMA in June.

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