Gov. Scott Walker refuses to defend Wisconsin domestic partner registry

Tue. May 17, 2011 5:51 AM by News Staff

Madison, WI - Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has asked a judge to allow the state to stop defending the state's domestic partner registry, a new law that extends a number of protections for same-sex couples, including hospital visitation and inheritance rights.

"While we're disappointed that Gov. Walker has decided not to defend critical protections for same-sex couples, including hospital visitation and family medical leave, this is exactly why we felt it was so important for Fair Wisconsin and Lambda Legal to intervene in this case," Executive of Fair Wisconsin, Katie Belanger, told The Cap Times. "We are still committed to defending this legislation and are confident the legislation is constitutional."

In a lawsuit, the conservative group Wisconsin Family Action claims the registry violates the state's ban on gay marriage because it grants same-sex couples a number of legal rights including limited hospital visitation and inheritance rights after joining the registry.

Former Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat who initiated the registry in 2009, appointed Madison attorney Lester Pines after state Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen refused to defend the registry. Pine's firm, Cullen Weston Pines and Bach, was terminated by Walker, a Republican, in March.

Late on Friday, Walker filed a motion to stop defending the case altogether.

A brief filed by Walker's chief counsel, Brian Hagedorn, read, "Governor Walker, in deference to the legal opinion of the attorney general that the domestic partner unconstitutional, does not believe the public interest requires a continued defense of this law."

The Chicago office of Lambda Legal has joined Fair Wisconsin and several same-sex couples in the fight to ensure the domestic partner registry remains in Wisconsin.

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, about 1,500 same-sex couples have registered as of August 2010.