Wisconsin Supreme Court upholds registry for same-sex couples

Thu Jul 31, 2014 2:45pm EDT
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By Brendan O'Brien

MILWAUKEE (Reuters) - The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a 2009 law that establishes a registry for same-sex couples, saying it does not violate an amendment to the state's constitution banning gay marriage.

The registry gives same-sex couples the right to hospital visits, family medical leave to care for a stricken partner, health benefits under a partner's insurance and the right to inherit assets when a partner dies.

The court said the ban on same-sex marriage did not include a ban on certain rights for same-sex couples. Wisconsin voters approved the gay marriage ban in a 2006 referendum.

A patchwork of legislation and popular votes has made same-sex marriage legal in 19 U.S. states and banned in 31 while a tangle of appeals are working their way through federal courts. In a number of states marriage is banned but same-sex couples have access to some benefits through legal provisions.

Wisconsin's ban on same-sex marriage was ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge in June. That ruling was appealed to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, which will hear oral arguments on the case in August.

"The lower court decision, which I think will be affirmed by the 7th Circuit, will eclipse the Supreme Court decision today, in the sense that there may be full marriage equality so you wouldn't need the provisions that were affirmed today," said Carl Tobias, professor at the University of Richmond School of Law.

The registry was created under Democratic Governor Jim Doyle and now has more than 2,000 couples on it, according to gay rights groups.

Wisconsin Family Action, an anti-gay rights group, argued in a 2010 lawsuit that the registry violated the amendment because it resembles marriage under state law.   Continued...

Two men, both wearing signs that read "he's the groom", hold hands shortly after midnight after getting a civil union when Colorado's civil union law went into effect in Denver May 1, 2013. REUTERS/Rick Wilking