Wisconsin Court Upholds Domestic Partner Benefits
(Madison, Wisconsin, June 20, 2011)—Today, the Circuit Court, Branch 11 in Dane County, Wisconsin, upheld as constitutional the state's Domestic Partner Registry.
Wisconsin Circuit Court Judge Daniel R. Moeser wrote, "Ultimately, it is clear that Chapter 770 does not violate the Marriage Amendment because it does not create a legal status for domestic partners that is identical or substantially similar to that of marriage. The state does not recognize domestic partnership in a way that even remotely resembles how the state recognizes marriage. Moreover, domestic partners' have far fewer legal rights, duties, and liabilities in comparison to the legal rights, duties, and liabilities of spouses."
"The law is clear—the domestic partnership law does not violate the Wisconsin constitution," said Christopher Clark, Senior Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal's Midwest Regional Office based in Chicago. "The research the court provided in its ruling today is a showcase of material proving that the proponents of the antigay marriage amendment repeatedly told voters in 2006 that the Marriage Amendment would not ban domestic partnership benefits."
In June 2009, Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle signed domestic partnerships into law, granting 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, brought a lawsuit in Dane County Circuit Court arguing that the domestic partnership law is a violation of Wisconsin's constitutional amendment banning marriage equality. Shortly thereafter, Lambda Legal successfully moved to intervene in the lawsuit on behalf of Fair Wisconsin and five same-sex couples.
"We are pleased that the Court upheld the limited protections provided by domestic partnerships because they are essential in allowing committed same-sex couples to care for each other in times of need," said Katie Belanger, Executive Director of Fair Wisconsin. This is an exciting day for Wisconsin. Domestic partnerships marked our state's first step toward full equality in nearly 30 years. Judge Moeser's decision will ensure that we can continue advancing equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Wisconsinites in the years ahead."
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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.