U.S. Appeals Court Judges Express Skepticism Over Wisconsin Same - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

U.S. Appeals Court Judges Express Skepticism Over Wisconsin Same-Sex Marriage Ban

Posted: Updated:
CHICAGO (WKOW) -- Dozens of supporters and opponents of Wisconsin's same-sex marriage ban converged on the U.S. 7th District Court of Appeals Tuesday morning to hear attorneys for the state and eight plaintiff couples make their arguments to a three-judge panel.

The overwhelming sense from people on both sides of the argument afterwards was that the judges were not buying the state's rationale for keeping the ban in place.

"You never know what the court's gonna do, but I was pleased by the general tenor of the questions of the court," said James Esseks, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) attorney who argued on behalf of the plaintiffs. 

But Esseks had to be more than just pleased, as Judges Richard Posner, Ann Claire Williams and David Hamilton grilled Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General Timothy Samuelson for over 20 minutes on how repealing the ban would be harmful to Wisconsin residents.

"And I didn't feel like the Attorney General really answered that question, except by saying they don't know, but they're afraid by what might happen," said Virginia Wolf, one of the plaintiffs in the case.

Judge Posner called part of the state's argument "feeble", while Judge Hamilton bashed Samuelson's rationale that upholding the ban would promote more heterosexual marriage and traditional families. But same-sex marriage opponents criticized the judges for continuing what they call a dangerous legal precedent.

"You have no-fault divorce.  Then you have, 'oh you don't have to get married in order to have sex,'" said Mike Dean, an attorney who represents the conservative group Wisconsin Family Action.  "The courts have systematically, over 60 years, deconstructed the family and taken away all these fences."

But Esseks said there is no way for the court to view the ban as anything but a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

"Saying that the fundamental right to marry applies to different-sex couples but not to same-sex couples violates the equal dignity of same-sex couples.  And that is a leading principle based in constitutional law, based in Supreme Court law," said Esseks.

While it seems obvious what the judges will ultimately decide, they aren't expected to issue an actual ruling until later this fall.  

 Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, who has already vowed to fight to uphold the ban all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States if necessary, put out the following statement after the hearing.

"My duty to support and defend the Constitution is not limited.  I am increasingly concerned about the federal government's reach into, if not domination of, powers guaranteed to the States and the people in the 10th Amendment.  All laws governing domestic relations, whether they are laws concerning marriage or divorce or child custody, have been traditionally left to the states.   Wisconsin's laws defining marriage should be given the same respect and deference."

Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 WorldNow and WKOW. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service and Mobile Privacy Policy & Terms of Service.

Persons with disabilities who need assistance with issues relating to the content of this station's public inspection file should contact Anna Engelhart at 608-661-2767. Questions or concerns relating to the accessibility of the FCC's online public file system should be directed to the FCC at 888-225-5322, at 888-835-5322 (TTY) or at fccinfo@fcc.gov.