Gay rights advocates have won a legal battle in Wisconsin. A state appeals court has upheld the state's domestic partnership registry for same-sex couples.
Democrats created the registry in 2009. It gives same-sex couples a variety of legal protections including hospital visitation rights and the right to make end of life decisions for one another. Critics of the law sued, contending it violated the state constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2006 banning same sex marriage.
A state appeals court rejected that argument, saying the registry is substantially different than marriage. Katie Belanger heads the the gay rights group Fair Wisconsin, which defended the registry in court.
"For the more than two-thousand couples who have registered and the couples who continue to get registered throughout our state, it means that they are still protected under state law and are allowed to take care of each other," she says.
The court wrote that it would take pages to list the rights and obligations that go with marriages but not so with domestic partnerships. Belanger says the court's decision recognizes statements proponents of the gay marriage ban made during its successful campaign.
"Voters were told very clearly that that amendment would not prohibit the state of Wisconsin from providing limited legal protections to gay and lesbian couples, which is exactly what this registry did," she says.
The group that brought the lawsuit, Wisconsin Family Action, did not return a call seeking comment. In a statement, Director Julaine Appling said the registry was, quote, "precisely the type of marriage imitation that the voters intended to prevent." Appling promised an appeal to the State Supreme Court.