He is a devoted husband and a father of three, President and CEO of the largest manufacturing association in the country. He is a life-long Republican who served as Chief of Staff to a Governor and a Senator. He was chairman of his local Humane Society. But none of that mattered―or could save him. The man is gay. He and his husband made the mistake of selecting Dane County, Wisconsin, during the governorship of Scott Walker, for the birth of their third child.
On the day of their child’s birth in 2015, two loving Dads, Jay Timmons and Rick Olson,were told they could not take their just-born son home from the hospital. “Not because he was sick and needed medical attention,” Timmons writes in a searing article about his family’s legal ordeal, “But because even after last year’s landmark Supreme Court decision affirming marriage equality, there are still people who impose their personal philosophy or religious views in their official actions.” It took Timmons and his family ten grueling months with crushing legal fees before their baby boy could come home.
The people who imposed their “personal philosophy” on Timmons and his family were not a state clerk or a wedding cake vendor. Timmons courtroom nightmare was set in motion by Governor Scott Walker when he appointed a new judge to the Circuit Court of Dane County―-a political activist attorney Jim Troupis. Judge Troupis would now preside over Timmons’ petition for parental rights. You may remember hearing about Jim Troupis after he promoted the novel idea to detain by law enforcement Wisconsin Senate Democrats who had fled the state to block a vote on union bargaining legislation. No matter your politics, Troupis is a brass-knuckled politico.
Immediately after his appointment, Judge Troupis announced a “different process” for determining parental rights, a “process” that degenerated into a court-appointed guardian for Timmons’ son. It was shocking and unprecedented that a guardian would be appointed in this situation. The guardian attorney was Mark Knutson, well known for his radio talk show “The Word on the Law” which is all about God’s will and the legal system. Knutson’s associate was Erik Krueger, author of “God Versus Government, Understanding State Authority in the Context of the Same-sex Marriage Movement”. Krueger writes, “Christians nevertheless must resist the State when it compels them to act contrary to God’s command...”, citing the Bible in his Liberty University Law Review article about LGBT Americans and same-sex marriage, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness”. Thanks to Judge Jim Troupis, these folks had Timmons’ son under their guardianship.
Troupis denied Timmons and his husband the ability to leave the state with their new-born son. He denied Timmons and his husband parental rights. He even declared, according to Timmons, that he and his husband were “human traffickers”. He referred to women as “wombs”. To Timmons’ horror, Judge Troupis left his son with no protections of parentage.
Timmons and his family were no longer in a world of equality and dignity articulated by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Obergefell v. Hodges same-sex marriage opinion. The Troupis order was far more in the spirit of Supreme Court Justice Byron White who declared thirty years ago (Bowers v. Hardwick) any connection between homosexuality, ordered liberty and “family, marriage or procreation....at best facetious.”
Thankfully, the Timmons family story ends well. The two Dads were vindicated by a new judge who completely vacated Troupis’ faulty and cruel order. Troupis resigned from the Court so that he could pursue an appointment to the State Supreme Court.
The process to establish parental rights under the surrogacy laws in Wisconsin “should have been nothing more than a two-day affair”, writes Timmons. For LGBT Americans who may wish to start families after the Supreme Court affirmed marriage equality, the Timmons story is now all our concern. To witness how leaders like Governor Scott Walker and Judge Jim Troupis could so trample the dignity and parental rights of someone of Timmons’ quality and reputation is a shocker. We are not talking about a marriage registrar who can be ordered to do his or her job. We are talking about deeply embedded judicial animus at the highest level of the Dane County, Wisconsin Circuit Court that could freely heap legal abuse on two parents and their children. No gay or lesbian American, no member of our vast extended families, and none of our allies in the legal community should turn away from what happened here, a courtroom family mugging inflicted on Jay Timmons, his family and, in the end, all of us.