By Julie Bolcer
Originally published on Advocate.com August 26 2009 5:50 PM ET
Wisconsin governor Jim Doyle announced on Tuesday that Madison attorney Lester Pines (pictured) has been selected to defend the domestic-partnership law that attorney general J.B. Van Hollen last week said he would not defend against a court challenge, reports the La Crosse Tribune.
Doyle said that Pines, of the law firm Cullen Weston Pines & Bach, is “uniquely qualified” to handle the case. The 34-year legal veteran is already involved with a separate state supreme court case challenging the 2006 constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions. That case, which argues the amendment was improperly put to voters, is set for oral arguments in November.
Pines expressed his confidence in the “overwhelmingly strong case for the constitutionality” of the domestic-partner registry, which went into effect this month. The registry grants same-sex couples about one fourth of the benefits afforded through marriage, including hospital visitation and inheritance rights.
Board members of Wisconsin Family Action filed a lawsuit against the new domestic-partnership law, saying that it violated the voter-approved ban on same-sex marriages and civil unions.
Attorney General Van Hollen, a Republican, cited the 2006 ban last week when he announced that he would not defend the domestic-partnership registry. In a reversal of earlier statements, he said that domestic partnerships are substantially similar to marriage, and therefore not legally recognized by the state.
As outside counsel hired by the state, Pines will be paid a rate of $175 per hour -- to be paid by taxpayers. His contract will be reviewed after his fees reach $20,000.