MADISON, Wis. — Gov. Scott Walker, a staunch defender of Wisconsin’s same-sex marriage ban, said Wednesday that he senses no “significant movement” to undo the law even though a federal lawsuit filed Monday challenges its constitutionality.
The lawsuit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, was brought on behalf of four same-sex couples who are seeking the same legal protections and civil rights that marriage between a man and woman provides. They argue that Wisconsin’s ban, adopted by voters in 2006, violates the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection and due process clauses.
But Walker, who faces re-election in November, sidestepped commenting on arguments in the lawsuit when asked about it Wednesday. Instead, he said as governor he was obligated to uphold the state constitution and the ban, but defending it would be left to Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen.
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“I haven’t heard a significant movement across the state to make a n alteration on that one way or the other,” Walker said of the ban.
Polling shows increased support for legalizing gay marriage in Wisconsin and dozens of lawsuits have been filed across the country challenging similar laws. The U.S. Supreme Court in June ruled same-sex couples were entitled to federal benefits and a federal judge in December overturned a same-sex marriage ban in conservative Utah.
“I’m not sure what the governor bases his perceptions on, but public opinion in Wisconsin has been moving powerfully toward marriage equality, just as it has been elsewhere in the country,” said ACLU attorney Larry Dupuis in an email. “More and more Americans are embracing the idea that same-sex couples – who are their neighbors, friends, and loved ones – deserve the same dignity and protections as any other married couples.”
Wisconsin’s gay marriage ban was adopted by 59 percent of voters in 2006. But a Marquette University statewide poll released in October showed 53 percent support for gay marriage. That was up from 44 percent in October 2012.
Walker, a potential 2016 Republican candidate for president, has largely avoided talking in depth about hot-button social issues like gay marriage. But he has a long history of opposing gay marriage and Wisconsin’s 2009 domestic registry law.
Walker voted for the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in 2006. As Milwaukee County executive in 2009, Walker vetoed a measure to provide benefits to same-sex partners of county workers. And once elected governor, in 2011, he fired the state’s attorney defending Wisconsin’s domestic registry law. The state Supreme Court is currently weighing whether the registry violates the state ban on gay marriage.
Walker’s Democratic opponent in this year’s race for governor, Mary Burke, supports legalizing same-sex marriage and voted against the 2006 constitutional ban. Burke said Wednesday she supports the ACLU lawsuit as well.
“I completely support people’s freedom to choose who they would like to marry,” Burke said.
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