Milwaukee lesbian couple challenge Wisconsin’s same-sex marriage ban
Bypassing lower courts, a Milwaukee lesbian couple filed a lawsuit Wednesday directly with the Wisconsin Supreme Court in an effort to invalidate the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.
Katherine Halopka-Ivery and Linda Halopka-Ivery named state and Milwaukee County officials as defendants in the 35-page lawsuit. They are represented by Milwaukee attorney Paul Ksicinski.
Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said he will defend the action.
The declaratory judgment action contends that original jurisdiction with the Supreme Court is proper because the matter of the legality of same-sex marriage is of great public importance to the state.
The lawsuit comes as one state after another is moving toward legalizing gay marriage.
The suit notes that in 1982, Wisconsin was the first state to ban discrimination against gays in housing, public accommodation and employment, and that, unlike some other states, Wisconsin never banned marriage between people of different races.
Now, it states, while 17 states and the District of Columbia recognize same-sex marriages, Wisconsin has one of the most restrictive bans.
The lawsuit also cites the U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, saying it found that “in marriage, separate is not equal.”
That decision bestowed federal marriage benefits on same-sex couples who are lawfully married and reside in states that recognize such unions. Therefore, the Halopka-Iverys contend, they are being denied those federal benefits.
The plaintiffs say they were legally married in California in December but are now subject to possible criminal prosecution in Wisconsin under the state’s so-called "marriage evasion" law. A gay or lesbian couple who go elsewhere to obtain a marriage specifically prohibited under Wisconsin law could face up to nine months in jail and $10,000 fines, if convicted.
According to the suit, Katherine Halopka-Ivery tried to transfer ownership of real estate in her name to the couple and Milwaukee County register of deeds officials refused to record the transfer unless the couple filed for a Wisconsin domestic partnership.