Lawyers defending the state in a Wisconsin case regarding domestic partnerships have been fired by the state’s Governor, Scott Walker. This may not sound bizarre, but think about it: the lawyers were defending the state’s domestic partnership law. The governor who was around before Walker, Jim Doyle, put into his budget a domestic partner registry, which went into effect in August 2009. The registry provided same-sex couples with limited rights, like hospital visitations and inheritance, if they opted to join. It even extended health care benefits to same-sex partners of government workers! Sounds fabulous, right?
Well… not to conservatives in Wisconsin.
The Wisconsin lawsuit, which was filed by Wisconsin Family Action’s President Julaine Appling, challenged the registry, claiming it violates the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. (An anti-gay marriage referendum was approved by 59 percent of voters in 2006.)
Walker is looking for new people to fill the shoes of his terminated firm, Cullen Weston Pines & Bach- probably people who are more aligned with his perspective. He has not indicated if the state is even going to continue pursuing the case. But is this the appropriate way to end a conversation about same-sex marriage after 5 years? In fact, is it even appropriate to end that conversation? Well, no, but to people who know Walker, this isn’t even that weird:
Pines, who also represented Bill McConkey in his ultimately unsuccessful challenge to the state’s constitutional ban on gay marriage, says he expected to be fired from the case. In fact, he is surprised it took this long.
“Gov. Walker is ideologically opposed to equal rights for gay and lesbian and transgendered people as is everyone in his administration as far as I can tell and they will be probably want to take steps to ensure that gay and lesbian and transgendered people do not have equal rights,” Pines said.
“Everything that Gov. Walker is doing is ideological,” Pines added. “I don’t see that his administration has any particular respect for the law per se.”
We’ve already posted here on how important gay legislators and lawmakers are to creating and sustaining change in the gay marriage arena, and this is the perfect example of how that can be a threat to our existing framework – and how scared it makes people. Even though Wisconsin already has this registry, the opportunity to destroy those rights is now opportune and, apparently, possible through inexplicable phenomena like firing completely qualified and uncontroversial lawyers working for your state. Sound shady? It is. Sound shitty? Very.
So, a Governor with “no respect for the law” sounds troubling, but what sounds even more troubling TO HIS AGENDA is the fact that after Pines was let go for, erm, no reason, gay couples from Wisconsin intervened in the case. That’s right – it’s a girlfight now:
Fair Wisconsin, a statewide gay rights advocacy group, asked to intervene in the lawsuit, and several same-sex couples are now also defendants in the suit. The Chicago office of the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, a civil rights organization that focuses on gay issues, represents these couples and will continue to do, says attorney Christopher Clark.
So the bad news is, the Governor of Wisconsin is afraid of same-sex marriage and is upholding that fear with his power, against all odds, and no matter what the costs. But the good news? It’s totally transparent and totally obvious, and that makes it twice as tacky. If organizations like Fair Wisconsin work hard to represent the importance of equality for, well, everyone under the law (sound familiar? It should, it’s our creed), they will hopefully be able to pick up where Walker left it off. Let’s just hope the case continues, and doesn’t just come to a standstill, because well… that’s kind of how court cases should work. But hey, apparently anything goes.