Lambda Legal Seeks to Intervene on Behalf of Fair Wisconsin to Save Legal Protections for Same-Sex Couples and Their Families

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15,000 Wisconsin Same-Sex Couples Need Domestic Partnership Law for Times of Illness and Crisis
October 1, 2010
Christopher Clark

"Wisconsin Family Action should stop wasting the taxpayers' money on frivolous lawsuits."

(Madison, Wisconsin, October 1, 2010)—In court papers filed today, Lambda Legal is seeking to intervene on behalf of Fair Wisconsin and five same-sex couples in a lawsuit brought by an antigay group attempting to strip away critical domestic partnership protections for same-sex couples and their families.

"This is the second time that Wisconsin Family Action has asked a court to deny the basic protections of domestic partnerships to nearly 15,000 same-sex Wisconsin couples and their families," said Christopher Clark, Senior Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal's Midwest Regional Office in Chicago. "It is absurd to suggest that the limited protections provided to domestic partners are equivalent to the multitude of legal protections enjoyed by married couples. Wisconsin Family Action should stop wasting the taxpayers' money on frivolous lawsuits. The domestic partnership law and the constitutional amendment barring same-sex couples from marriage are not in conflict with each other."

"We look forward to our day in court so that Fair Wisconsin, its members and our defendant couples can describe how important the legal protections provided by domestic partnerships are for protecting their families in times of illness and crisis," added Clark.

"More than 15,000 same-sex couples across the state of Wisconsin are now enjoying some of the most critical protections all couples need to care for each other," said Katie Belanger, Executive Director of Fair Wisconsin. "With the passage of domestic partnerships, Wisconsin has taken an important step in advancing equality for gays and lesbians and we are proud to stand with Lambda Legal in defending these critical protections. This isn't about being gay or straight—it's about being decent."

Last year, Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle signed domestic partnerships into law. Domestic partnerships grant limited, but important legal protections to same-sex couples, including hospital visitation and the ability to take a family medical leave to care for a sick or injured partner.

Wisconsin Family Action, an antigay group, filed a lawsuit against the state in 2009 arguing that the domestic partnership law is a violation of the antigay constitutional amendment barring marriage equality and recognition of any legal status that is "substantially similar" to marriage that was passed in 2006. After the State Attorney General announced that his office would not defend the state against the claim, Governor Doyle appointed special counsel to represent the state. Lambda Legal intervened in that matter, but the Wisconsin Supreme Court ultimately rejected the case. On August 18, 2010, Wisconsin Family Action and the Alliance Defense Fund filed a new challenge to Wisconsin's domestic partnership registry in the Dane County Circuit Court.

David Kopitze and Paul Klawiter, who have been together for nearly 40 years, are worried about what losing these basic protections might mean for their family. Said Kopitze, "The domestic partnership registry is the only way we can secure some fundamental legal protections. Paul and I just want to make sure that we can visit each other in the hospital and take care of each other as we grow older."

ACLU also filed court papers today to intervene in the Appling v. Doyle case on behalf of five same-sex couples. Like Lambda Legal, ACLU says domestic partnerships and marriages are not "substantially similar."

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Lambda Legal Contact: Jonathan Adams; 646-752-3251; jadams@lambdalegal.org

Fair Wisconsin Contact: Patrick Farabaugh; 608.441.0143; patrick.farabaugh@fairwisconsin.com

Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work.

Fair Wisconsin, one of the state's most respected advocacy groups, has a proud history in education, grassroots organizing, outreach, and political action in the cause of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) equality. With a statewide board of directors and a full-time staff, Fair Wisconsin is the only organization to represent the Badger state in the Equality Federation, the national alliance of state-based LGBT advocacy organizations. To learn more, visit www.fairwisconsin.com.

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