Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Wisconsin attorney Lester Pines to challenge state's gay-marriage ban and defend new domestic registry law

08/26/09 Wausau Daily / Gay Marriage Watch:

In McConkey v. Van Hollen (Wisconsin Supreme Court Case No. 2008AP001868), attorney Lester Pines represents plaintiff William McConkey in a lawsuit to overturn the "super-DOMA" amendment of the state constitution. Art. XIII, § 13 bans same-sex marriage and legal status for relationships "substantially similar" to marriage. McConkey alleges that the amendment, adopted in the 2006 election, violates the "single-subject rule" that constitutional amendments concern just one subject.

The Wausau Daily reports that Pines will represent the state in another high-profile case involving Art. XIII, § 13 - Appling v. Doyle. The plaintiff, Wisconsin Family Action, claims that the the state's new domestic registry law violates the amendment, and has petitioned the state Supreme Court to review the claims without the benefit of litigation in lower courts. Because state Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen has decided not to defend the law, Governor Jim Doyle has appointed Pines to do so.
Doyle said he selected Pines, a 34-year legal veteran who has argued in front of the high court many times, because he is "uniquely qualified." He noted Pines is already defending a citizen who argues the constitutional amendment should be struck down because it was improperly put to voters. Oral arguments in front of the high court in that case are set for November.

Pines said his firm's familiarity with the issue meant he could get started "in the defense [in Appling v. Doyle] very, very quickly without a lot of lead time." He said he would ask the court to push back an Aug. 31 deadline for the state to respond to the lawsuit, but will be ready to do so if that request is denied.

The court is considering whether to take the case, or whether lower courts should decide the issue first.

Pines said he was confused by Van Hollen's decision not to defend the law. He said the plain language of the constitutional amendment, statements by supporters who claimed it would not outlaw domestic partnerships during the 2006 campaign and the Legislature's quick action to create domestic partnerships afterward all support its validity.

"There's an overwhelmingly strong case for the constitutionality of the domestic partner registry," he said.

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