Appling v. Doyle


In November 2006, Wisconsin passed a constitutional amendment that prohibits marriage for same-sex couples in the state and bars recognition of any legal status that is "substantially similar" to marriage. In June 2009, Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle signed domestic partnerships into law. Domestic partnerships grant limited but important legal protections to same-sex couples, including hospital visitation and the ability to take a family medical leave to care for a sick or injured partner.

Wisconsin Family Action, an antigay group, brought a lawsuit at the Wisconsin Supreme Court against the state arguing that the domestic partnership law is a violation of the antigay constitutional amendment barring marriage equality. After Wisconsin Attorney General Van Hollen announced that his office would not defend the state against the claim, Governor Doyle appointed special counsel to represent the state.

In September 2009, Lambda Legal filed a motion to intervene in the case on behalf of Fair Wisconsin, the statewide LGBT advocacy group, and its members and urged the Wisconsin Supreme Court to reject the case because it should have first been filed at a lower court.

In November 2009 the Wisconsin Supreme Court declined to exercise original jurisdiction over the matter.

Then on August 18, 2010, Wisconsin Family Action and the Alliance Defense Fund re-filed the challenge to Wisconsin's domestic partnership registry in the Dane County Circuit Court. Lambda Legal filed a motion to intervene on behalf of Fair Wisconsin and five same-sex couples.


  • September 2009 Lambda Legal files motion to intervene in the Wisconsin Supreme Court on behalf of Fair Wisconsin and its members.
  • November 2009 Wisconsin Supreme Court rejects lawsuit brought by Wisconsin Family Action attempting to strip away newly enacted domestic partnership protections for same-sex couples and their families.
  • August 2010 Wisconsin Family Action and Alliance Defense Fund file yet another lawsuit, this time with the Dane County Circuit Court.
  • October 2010 Lambda Legal files motion to intervene in the Dane County Circuit Court on behalf of Fair Wisconsin and five same-sex member couples.
  • December 2010 Court grants motion to intervene.
  • March 2011 Governor Scott Walker terminates the outside legal firm hired by Governor Doyle to defend the domestic partnership law. Lambda Legal continues to defend the law as the only defense counsel on the case.
  • May 2011 Governor Walker files notice to withdraw a motion for summary judgment that had been initiated by former Governor Doyle. The summary judgment asked for the court rule that the domestic partnership law was not in violation of the state's marriage amendment. Governor Walker also files a motion to be permitted to either withdraw from the case entirely, or to amend his office's position to say that the domestic partnership law is unconstitutional.
  • June 2011 Victory! Court upholds Wisconsin's Domestic Partner Registry as constitutional.
  • July 2012 Appellate Court asks Wisconsin Supreme Court to decide the constitutionality of the domestic partnership law.
  • December 2012 Wisconsin Court of Appeals upholds as constitutional the state's Domestic Partner Registry.

  • October 2013 Wisconsin Supreme Court hears oral arguments in the case.

  • July 2014 Victory! Wisconsin Supreme Court upholds Domestic Parnter Register.

Case Information

Status: Closed
Outcome: Victory

Defendant Intervenors

Fair Wisconsin

Glenn Carlson & Michael Childers; Crystal Hyslop & Janice Czyscon; Kathy Flores & Ann Kendzierski David Kopitzke & Paul Klawiter; Chad and Andrew Wege


Lambda Legal
Christopher Clark

Co-counsel/Cooperating Attorneys
Brian E. Butler of Stafford Rosenbaum LLP