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Friday, August 29, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 84.0° F  Mostly Cloudy
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Mark Gundrum won't hear Wisconsin's domestic partner lawsuit
Judge was an author of the state's gay marriage ban
Mark Gundrum
Mark Gundrum

A few weeks after President Barack Obama declared his support for gay marriage, the topic came up at the first of two debates between Gov. Scott Walker and Democratic challenger Tom Barrett.

Barrett, mayor of Milwaukee, said he supported gay marriage, adding that opinions on the matter have "evolved." He noted recent polling that found 53% of Americans support legalizing gay marriage - a stark increase from six years ago, when just 36% supported it and when Wisconsin voters approved a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and civil unions.

Walker reiterated his support for the state's constitutional ban on gay marriage.

Julaine Appling, president of Wisconsin Family Action, has used the law to challenge the state's domestic partner registry, which was approved in 2009 by the Democratic-controlled Legislature and signed by Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle. Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, a Republican, refused to defend the registry, so Doyle hired a private law firm to do so.

Last spring Walker fired the outside counsel. He also asked former Dane County Judge Daniel Moeser to allow the state to withdraw its support of the law and to declare it unconstitutional. Last June Moeser ruled the law constitutional, and Appling appealed.

All briefs on the case were submitted by January, but no ruling has been made. Lambda Legal, which is representing Fair Wisconsin and a number of couples in the case, wrote to the Court of Appeals on May 3 to make sure that Judge Mark Gundrum, who was assigned to the case April 27 by Chief Judge Richard Brown, would not hear it.

Gundrum, a former Wisconsin state representative who was appointed to the District 2 Court of Appeals by Walker in 2011, was one of the coauthors of the marriage amendment. It is not clear whether Gundrum recused himself or if Brown took action, but an attorney for the court confirmed Gundrum would not be on the three-judge panel for the case.

Christopher Clark, Lambda Legal's attorney, says that he fully expected that Gundrum would recuse himself, but was "being proactive on behalf of my clients" by expressing his concern to the court.

The identity of the panel won't be known until the judges issue a ruling at an as yet undetermined time, says the court attorney.

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