AG Van Hollen: Domestic Partnerships Are Unconstitutional

Aug. 20, 2009
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Overreach, much?

State Attorney General JB Van Hollen just sent out a press release saying that he can’t bring himself to defend the state against claims by an ultra-right-wing organization that the new domestic partnership registry is unconstitutional.

Van Hollen has already decided the domestic partnership registry is unconstitutional.

Why bother with the state Supreme Court when you’ve got an attorney general who’s willing to do its job?

Nevermind that the chief of legal services at the Wisconsin Legislative Council concluded that the registry didn’t violate the ban on same-sex marriages in the state. (Scroll to attachment 2 of this document for the WLC’s opinion, and a history of the legal opinions regarding the same-sex marriage ban, and the intent of its drafters in the state Legislature.)

Nevermind that before the 2006 vote, the ultra-right-wingers—including Julaine Appling, who filed the suit that Van Hollen won’t dirty his hands with—said the constitutional amendment wouldn’t ban domestic partnership benefits.

And, by the way, Van Hollen said this after he was elected:
"[Van Hollen] agreed with Lautenschlager's recent opinion that a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage would not prevent local governments or private employers from providing health benefits to the same-sex partners of employees."—Wisconsin State Journal, Jan. 13, 2007

State Rep. Mark Pocan just weighed in with this:

“Today, despite being elected by the people of Wisconsin to act as the state’s top lawyer, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen has refused to do his job.

Van Hollen’s declining to represent the state in defending the new domestic partner registry against a legal challenge is a press release written by J.B. Van Hollen the politician, not J.B. Van Hollen the attorney general.

It is unconscionable that in a time of fiscal crisis his actions will force the state taxpayers to fund outside attorneys to defend our Constitution and perform Van Hollen’s job.

When the domestic partner registry is upheld, Van Hollen will have to explain to the people of Wisconsin why he shirked his duties and stuck them with the bill.

The AG claimed in his statement that he is defending the Constitution—in reality he is shredding the Constitution for political purposes. I am very disappointed in the person who should be acting as the state’s top attorney, not the state’s biggest politician.”

One Wisconsin Now accuses Van Hollen of flip-flopping:

"Candidate Van Hollen promised that domestic partner protections were legal. Candidate Van Hollen promised he'd defend the state of Wisconsin. Attorney General Van Hollen has broken both of those promises."

OOOH! Gov. Doyle (a former AG, if you've forgotten) is definitely not happy with Van Hollen:

"The Attorney General's job is to represent the state and defend state law when there is a good faith defense to be made. His representation should not be based on whether he likes the state law. Clearly this is defensible. Constitutional law experts have examined the domestic partnership registry and believe it is sound and not in conflict with the state constitution. Attorney General Van Hollen's decision not to defend the domestic partner registry will force the costs of outside counsel onto taxpayers when the Attorney General should simply do his job."

The governor's office also provides a link to another opinion supporting the legality of the domestic partnership registry.

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