Media Center

Van Hollen Applauds Supreme Court Decision Unanimously Affirming Constitutionality of Wisconsin's Marriage Amendment


"Today's Supreme Court decision affirms the will of the people," said Van Hollen


MADISON - The Wisconsin Supreme Court today unanimously upheld the constitutionality of the legislature's presentation to voters of the November 2006 marriage amendment ballot question.  Attorney General Van Hollen, whose office defended the constitutionality of the ballot question, said today, "I am very pleased that the Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld the position this office has taken since the beginning of this case:  that the marriage amendment was adopted in conformity with the procedure laid down in our state constitution.  The Court strongly affirmed that the amendment contains two parts that both relate to marriage and are designed to preserve the legal status of marriage in Wisconsin as between only one man and one woman."    


At issue before the Supreme Court was whether the marriage amendment as submitted to and approved by the voters during the November 2006 elections met the State Constitution's requirements for amending the Constitution.  The ballot question asked voters whether they wished to create a new provision in the Constitution "to provide that only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state and that a legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized in this state."  Voters said "yes" by a margin of 59 percent to 41 percent. 


McConkey brought suit, contending that the ballot question violated the separate amendment rule, contained in Article XII, section 1 of the Constitution, which requires proposed amendments to the Constitution to be presented to voters in separate ballot questions.  The Court today, agreeing with Attorney General Van Hollen, reaffirmed longstanding precedent when it held that the Legislature has "considerable discretion in the manner in which amendments are drafted and submitted to the people."  The Court said, "It is within the discretion of the Legislature to submit several distinct propositions as one amendment if they relate to the same subject matter and are designed to carry out one general purpose."  The Court dismissed McConkey's claim that the two parts of the Wisconsin marriage amendment have nothing to do with one another.  Instead, the Court held that the two parts of the marriage amendment "plainly relate to the subject of marriage" and further the same purpose of "preserving the legal status of marriage in Wisconsin as between only one man and one woman." 


The Attorney General was represented in this appeal by the Deputy Attorney General, Raymond P. Taffora and Assistant Attorney General Lewis Beilin. 


 A copy of the Court's opinion can be seen here:


A copy of Attorney General Van Hollen's main brief to the Supreme Court can be seen here: