Amendment preserving traditional definition of marriage passes court challenge
Judge Richard Neiss of Dane County rejected a lawsuit claiming the referendum amending the constitution to ban same-sex marriage was itself unconstitutional.
UW-Oshkosh instructor William McConkey challenged the amendment, arguing Wisconsin statutes limit referendums on constitutional amendments to a single question. McConkey’s attorneys argued that the marriage amendment asked voters to respond to two separate questions: how marriage should be defined in Wisconsin and whether marriage benefits should be allocated to unmarried people.
But Judge Richard G. Neiss ruled that the separate propositions on the ballot were constitutional because they addressed the same general legislative purpose.
“These propositions clearly relate to the same subject matter and further the same purpose,” Neiss said.
Wisconsin Attorney General JB Van Vollen was quick to claim credit. Here’s the press release:
Van Hollen Successfully Defends The Constitutionality Of The Legislature’s Presentation To Voters Of Marriage Amendment Ballot Question
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
May 30, 2008
Madison – Ruling from the bench today, Dane County Circuit Court Judge Richard G. Niess upheld Wisconsin ‘s Marriage Amendment in the case McConkey v. Van Hollen. The decision dismisses a legal challenge questioning whether or not Wisconsin ‘s marriage amendment had been properly placed before the voters.
“I’m pleased that we were able to prevail today and that the Court adopted our arguments,” said Van Hollen. “We argued that the marriage amendment was properly submitted. Today’s ruling defeats a legal challenge that was aimed at undermining the will of Wisconsin voters.”
At issue before the Court was whether the marriage amendment as submitted to the voters during the November 2006 elections met the State Constitution’s requirements for amending the Constitution. Judge Niess found that the marriage amendment ballot question did not violate the constitutional requirement that each ballot question contain only one amendment. Judge Niess found that the question was a single amendment because that the propositions contained in the text related to the same subject matter and were designed to accomplish the same general purpose.
“As Wisconsin ‘s Attorney General, I am committed to vigorously defending the state’s constitution,” said Van Hollen. “In this case, the Legislature acted well within its constitutional discretion in forming the ballot question.”
Assistant Attorney General Thomas Balistreri represented the state in this case.
We’ll see if some of Van Hollen’s liberal defenders will be quick to jump to his defense in this case.