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Gay Marriage Laws: Wisconsin Supreme Court Thursday Upholds Same-sex Couples’ Benefits

First Posted: Jul 31, 2014 03:40 PM EDT

In Wisconsin Supreme Court Thursday, judges upheld a law providing several benefits to gay and lesbian couples, unanimously agreeing it did not violate the state's ban on gay marriage.

The 2009 law was created to establish a registry system with county clerks for these couples to receive inheritance, hospital visitation and medical leave. The reported domestic partnerships were allowed these limited rights and the state Supreme Court ruled it did not interfere with the state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

This amendment was approved 59 percent to 41 percent in 2006 by Wisconsin voters.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Scott Walker, Laurel Patrick, said the conservative governor would "continue to administer state law." However, Patrick did not respond when asked if Walker would defend the 2009 domestic partnership law.

State Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in June that he believes the domestic partnership law is "frivolous" and has declined to defend it, making it his only recusal for reasons other than conflict of interest in his seven years in office.

Van Hollen issued a statement on Thursday regarding the court's decision.

"I believe the courts are wrong. I believe it's indefensible," Van Hollen said. "If someone else could come up with a colorable argument then they should be the ones to defend it."

Then-governor Jim Doyle and legislature led by Democrats were responsible for approving the 2009 benefits.

"Gay and lesbian couples in Wisconsin no longer have to fear that the protections they have will be taken away by unnecessary anti-gay legal action," said Lambda Legal, an advocacy group for same-sex marriage, said of the Wisconsin decision.

Milwaukee County Clerk Joseph Czarnezki, said he has not seen any recent increases in applications for domestic partnerships, saying "if anything [there's] been on the decline."

Two similar federal cases have struck down these types of marital bans in Oklahoma, Utah and Virginia.

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