Boots & Sabers

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1659, 16 May 16

Milwaukee and Madison Expand Domestic Registries

I’d almost forgotten about the Domestic Registries.

Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell and Milwaukee County Clerk Joe Czarnezki announced on Friday that they would immediately start issuing domestic partnership declarations to opposite-sex couples along with same-sex couples.

Following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage, McDonell said, clerks aren’t allowed to discriminate based on gender when granting marriage licenses. The same logic applies to domestic partnership declarations, he said.

“A same-sex couple can choose between a domestic partnership and marriage, but an opposite-gender couple can’t,” McDonell said. “That’s not equal protection under the law.”

But while Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt, R-Fond du Lac, has been critical of the state’s domestic partnership registry for not being open to heterosexual couples, he argued McDonell and Czarnezki are acting “lawlessly.”

Both Thiesfeldt and Wisconsin Family Action president Julaine Appling on Monday called for Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel to seek an injunction against McDonell and Czarnezki.

Remember that Doyle pushed through the domestic registries after Wisconsinite voted to ban gay marriages back in 2006 or so. They were a workaround to give gay folks an option short of marriage. Now that the Supreme Court have overruled the will of the people and allows gay marriage, the original purpose of domestic registries have evaporated. Yet, as with any government program, they continue to exist.

Thiesfeldt is right. These clerks have no authority to change the parameters for domestic registries. They are not a lawmaking entity. They are charged with executing the existing law. So until the legislature changes the law or a court invalidates the law, these clerks are acting well beyond their legal authority.

The simplest solution would be for the legislature to just rescind the domestic registries completely. As I said, the reason for their creation no longer exists. Just end them and the clerks’ actions are moot.


1659, 16 May 2016


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