Court Ruling Throws Spotlight on Scott Walker’s Troubling History Working to Undermining Equality

WASHINGTON – Today, the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, issued the following statement on Gov. Scott Walker’s opposition to marriage equality after the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v Hodges.

In a historic 5-4 ruling, today the Supreme Court of the United States found bans on marriage equality to be unconstitutional—and that the fundamental right to marriage is a fundamental right for all.

“As Governor, Scott Walker has a deeply troubling record of working to undermine even the most basic rights of LGBT residents in Wisconsin, like a domestic partnership registry,” said JoDee Winterhof, HRC Vice President of Policy and Political Affairs. “Gov. Walker’s opposition to marriage equality puts him at odds with voters at home in Wisconsin, and the nation. Given his history, Gov. Walker’s failure to make clear that he would respect and uphold today’s ruling can only be considered a sign that he will work to undermine and reverse the ability of LGBT couples to get married like everyone else.”

Residents in Walker’s home state of Wisconsin support same-sex marriage, by a 59-33 margin, according to the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute.

The Human Rights Campaign has released detailed background documents highlighting the anti-LGBT records of current and potential 2016 candidates. More on their records can be found at http://www.hrc.org/2016RepublicanFacts/.

On April 28, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Obergefell v Hodges, a case originating in Ohio. In January, the Supreme Court announced that it would hear Obergefell along with three other cases from Michigan, Kentucky, and Tennessee. The arguments were consolidated under the name Obergefell, and the questions posed by the court dealt with the constitutionality of marriage bans more broadly.

Marriage equality has to date come to 37 states as well as the District of Columbia—representing more than 70 percent of the U.S. population.

In addition to continuing the fight to wiping away the last vestiges of marriage discrimination in all 50 states, in the coming months HRC will lead the fight for a sweeping federal non-discrimination bill—legislation that seeks to protect LGBT people and their families from discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, credit, federal funding, education and jury service.

Background:

Walker Said If Supreme Court Rules In Favor Of Marriage Equality “The Only Other Viable Option Out There Is To Support A Constitutional Amendment, Which I Would.” Walker was asked about federal judges striking state amendments banning same-sex marriage. Walker said, “I’m still hoping.  I may be one of the few out there, but I’m still hoping that the U.S. Supreme Court, not in our case, but it would apply to our state’s case if these other states are victorious.  I still am going to hope that the United States Supreme Court will say, ‘yes indeed, states have a right to define what marriage is.’ I voted for that as a state lawmaker in legislation.  I voted for that as just a voter in Wisconsin’s Constitution. I defended it as Governor along with our Attorney General in the federal court, the Court of Appeals and tried to get it to the U.S. Supreme Court.  But my hope is that the U.S. Supreme Court will do that.  If they don’t, the only other viable option out there is to support a constitutional amendment which I would, believing not just in marriage being defined as one man, one woman, but I also believe in states rights.  I believe that is an issue that appropriately belongs in the states.” [Caffeinated Thoughts, 4/29/2015; VIDEO]

2011: Walker Fired Private Attorneys Hired To Defend Wisconsin’s Domestic Partnership Registry Because He Believed It Unconstitutionally Violated Same-Sex Marriage Ban. According to the Associated Press, “Democratic lawmakers created the [domestic partnership] registry in 2009. Same-sex couples who join it are afforded a host of legal rights, including the right to visit each other in hospitals and make end-of-life decisions for one another. About 1,800 couples were on the registry at the end of 2011, according to the latest data from the state Department of Health Services. Members of the conservative group Wisconsin Family Action filed a lawsuit in 2010 alleging the registry bestowed a legal status substantially similar to marriage to same-sex couples. The group argued that violates the Wisconsin Constitution's ban on gay marriage. Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen refused to defend the registry, declaring it was clearly unconstitutional. Former Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat, appointed private attorneys to defend it, but Republican Gov. Scott Walker fired them after he took office in 2011 because he, too, believed the registry was unconstitutional.” [Associated Press, 12/21/2012]

May 2011:  Walker Asked A Judge To Allow The State To Stop Defending The Law Granting Hospital Visitation Rights To Same-Sex Couples.  “Gov. Scott Walker believes a new law that gives gay couples hospital visitation rights violates the state constitution and has asked a judge to allow the state to stop defending it. Democrats who controlled the Legislature in 2009 changed the law so that same-sex couples could sign up for domestic partnership registries with county clerks to secure some - but not all - of the rights afforded married couples. […] On Friday, Walker filed a motion to stop defending the case. ‘Governor Walker, in deference to the legal opinion of the attorney general that the domestic partner registry...is unconstitutional, does not believe the public interest requires a continued defense of this law,’ says the brief, filed by Walker's chief counsel, Brian Hagedorn.”  [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 5/16/11]

  • Judge Upheld Legality Of Wisconsin Domestic Partnership Registry. According to the Wisconsin State Journal, “A Dane County judge ruled Monday that the state's Domestic Partner Registry does not violate the state Constitution. In a 53-page decision, Circuit Court Judge Daniel Moeser said the registry, which went into effect Aug. 1, 2009, does not violate the Marriage Amendment to the state's Constitution passed in 2006….The registry, passed by a Democrat-controlled Legislature, grants same-sex couples protections such as the right to visit each other in hospitals, make end-of-life decisions and inherit each other's property.” [Wisconsin State Journal, 6/21/2011]

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. HRC envisions a world where LGBT people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.

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