Four gay and lesbian couples and the American Civil Liberties Union sued the state of Wisconsin on Monday, over the issue of marriage equality.
The couples hope their federal lawsuit helps them win the right to marry here.
The lawsuit targets an amendment to the state constitution. A majority of voters approved it in 2006, banning same sex marriage.
Charvonne Kemp of Milwaukee and her partner, Marie Carlson, have been together for eight years. We caught up with the couple as they drove back from Madison, after filing the lawsuit. Kemp says she hopes Wisconsin changes.
“I’ve moved most of my life, spent a good chunk of years in California, so it was kind of ironic that I leave the state that made (marriage) legal, to be in a state that won’t let it be legal. So it’s been kind of like, OK, really, why did I move? But I love it here,” Kemp says.
Kemp says despite their years together, it’s painful she can’t legally refer to Carlson as her wife. And Kemp says Wisconsin denies her kids an “official” connection to Carlson.
“My children think of her as ‘stepmom,’ but technically she’s not the stepmom,” Kemp says.
The American Civil Liberties Union has taken up Kemp and Carlson’s cause, along with that of three other gay and lesbian couples. The organization is asking a federal court to overturn Wisconsin’s ban on same-sex marriage. Larry Dupuis is legal director for the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation. He says the ban contradicts the U.S. Constitution, on two counts.
“It violates the equal protection provisions of (the) U.S. Constitution, which requires equal treatment of people who are similarly situated, and due process principles that require recognition of fundamental rights, such as the right to marry and treatment of all people with equal dignity,” Dupuis says.
Dupuis says federal courts around the country have been leaning in favor of same-sex marriage. Julaine Appling welcomes the legal challenge here.
“I understand about precedence and I understand that courts look at what is going on, but I would hope that at the end of the day, our amendment is taken for what it is, not what someone else has done in another state,” says Appling, of the group Wisconsin Family Action. It lobbied in favor of the state ban.
“We believe that the marriage amendment that we put in place here in 2006 is solid, and we’ll continue whatever level of defense of it we need to do,” Appling says.
Among those the ACLU lawsuit names as defendants are Gov. Scott Walker and Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen. Walker’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Van Hollen released a statement, saying he believes Wisconsin’s amendment banning same-sex marriage is constitutional and he’ll “vigorously fight to defend it.”