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Appling v. Doyle

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Appling v. Doyle is a petition for original action before the Wisconsin Supreme Court regarding Wisconsin’s recently established statewide, same-sex domestic partnership registry.[1] The petition asks the Court for a declaration that the registry is unconstitutional and for a permanent injunction against the enactment of the registry, which is scheduled to begin on August 3, 2009.


On June 29, 2009, Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle signed the same-sex domestic partnership registry into law as a provision of the 2010-11 state budget.[2] The registry creates a legal recognition of same-sex unions in Wisconsin.

On Thursday, July 23, 2009, Julaine Appling, President of Wisconsin Family Action, through attorneys at the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) and ADF allied attorneys in Wisconsin, filed an original action with the Wisconsin Supreme Court asking the Court to declare the same-sex domestic partnership registry unconstitutional and to permanently enjoin the defendants from the enactment of the registry.

The petition asserts that the registry violates Wisconsin’s Marriage Protection Amendment, ratified by Wisconsin voters on November 7, 2009 by 59.4% to 41.6%.[3] The amendment states:

Only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state. A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized in this state. Wisconsin Constitution; Article XIII, Section 13.

The Argument

The petitioners claim:

The form of domestic partnership created by the domestic partnership registry is prohibited by Art. XIII, sec. 13 of the Wisconsin Constitution by creating and requiring recognition of a legal status substantially similar to that of marriage...Such domestic partnerships are entered into by same-sex partners and are officially created and acknowledged in essentially the identical way that marriages are entered into by a man and woman and are officially created and acknowledged.

The petitioners believe the registry violates the Wisconsin Marriage Protection Amendment because it creates a new legal status for domestic partners. The requirements for obtaining a domestic partnership certificate are the same as those required for obtaining a marriage license with even the price for the certificate the same as for the marriage license.[4]

The petitioners asked the Court for three things:

  1. to accept the case as an original action before the Court (instead of working the case up from the trial court level)
  2. to declare the same-sex domestic partnership registry unconstitutional
  3. to permanently enjoin the enactment of the same-sex domestic partnership registry.

Involved parties


The petitioners on the case are Wisconsin residents and taxpayers and members of the board of directors of Wisconsin Family Action.

Julaine Appling, Wisconsin Family Action President

Jaren E. Hiller, Wisconsin Family Action board member

Edmund L. Webster, Wisconsin Family Action board member


Jim Doyle, in his official capacity as Governor of the State of Wisconsin

Karen Timberlake, in her official capacity as Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services

John Kiesow, in his official capacity as State Registrar of Vital Statistics

Legal Representation

Attorney Richard M. Esenberg, Michael D. Dean, Esq. of First Freedoms Foundation and attorneys Austin Nimocks and Brian Raum from the Alliance Defense Fund represent the Wisconsin Family Action board members on this case.


  1. Act 28, WI 2010-11 State Budget, pp.604-606 Accessed 23 July 2009.
  2. Gov. Doyle's Veto Message Accessed 23 July 2009.
  3. WI Passes Marriage Amendment Accessed 23 July 2009.
  4. Appling v. Doyle Petition Accessed 23 July 2009.

External links