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MILWAUKEE (Reuters) - A Wisconsin judge struck down on Friday the state's controversial collective bargaining law pressed by Republican Governor Scott Walker, ruling that it unconstitutionally limits the rights of many public sector union workers.
Walker responded to the ruling by saying that a "liberal activist judge in Dane County" wanted to take away the lawmaking responsibilities of the legislature and governor.
"We are confident that the state will ultimately prevail in the appeals process," Walker said in a statement.
Dane County Circuit Court Judge Juan Colas ruled that the law passed by Wisconsin lawmakers in a contentious session in 2011 violated the union members' free speech, association and equal protection rights in the state and U.S. constitutions.
Several statutes enacted or changed "single out and encumber the rights of those employees who choose union membership and representation solely because of that association" in violation of their free speech and association rights, Colas found.
It was unclear what immediate impact his ruling would have.
Numerous legal challenges have been pursued since the Republican-led legislature approved the collective bargaining law last year in a session aimed at fixing a budget deficit.
The law forced most state workers, including teachers, to pay more for health insurance and pensions, limited their pay raises, made payment of union dues voluntary and forced unions to be recertified every year.
The proposals spurred massive protests at the state Capitol in Madison and a union-backed effort to recall Walker. Walker easily survived a recall election in June and has become a champion of fiscal conservatives in his first term.
Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee and David Bailey in Minneapolis; Editing by Cynthia Johnston