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Wisconsin Assembly Passes Domestic Partnerships

Jim Burroway

June 13th, 2009

The Wisconsin Assembly pulled an all-nighter overnight to finally pass a budget in the early hours of Saturday morning. That 50-48 party line vote by the Democrat-controlled Assembly for the $62.2 billion budget also included important policy changes, including the establishment of a Domestic Partnership registry for same-sex couples. Among the very limited benefits of Domestic Partnerships include provisions for jointly owning property, hospital visitation rights and inheritance. Domestic partners of state employees would also be eligible to receive the same state retirement and health insurance benefits as spouses.

The budget will now go to the Senate, which is expected to vote on it sometime next week.

If domestic partnerships become law, Wisconsin would be the first state with an existing constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and civil unions to provide domestic partnership protections for same-sex couples.

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Bruno
June 13th, 2009 | LINK

I’m obviously expecting this to head to court if it passes for being “too similar” to marriage. I still can’t believe that law passed in the very first state to provide non-discrimination protections for gays & lesbians (in 1982).

Rence
June 13th, 2009 | LINK

Of course the group that insisted that our anti-gay marriage amendment did not ban civil unions is the same group that will be taking this to court because it is “substantially similar” to marriage. It provides less than 20% of the benefits that marriage provides – so that would be like saying that an annual salary of $18,000 is “substantially similar” to an annual salary of $100,000.

Ephilei
June 14th, 2009 | LINK

FYI, the WI law is:

Only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state. A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized in this state.

Marriage issues aside, that’s a poorly worded law. “Substantially” is too vague and could be interpreted too many ways. Why couldn’t they simply detail exactly what is outlawed, like, “A legal status granting rights to couples including joint property ownership, custody, insurance coverage…” Then everyone knows where the law stands. Would that really be so hard?

w. kevin ware
June 15th, 2009 | LINK

Wisconsin will not be the first. Nevada passed a domestic partnership registry law weeks ago. Nevada has a state constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage. The new law passed over the governor’s veto.

Bruno
June 16th, 2009 | LINK

w. kevin ware: Wisconsin would be the first state with a law that also specifies rights similar to marriage as well. The first state without that specification would have been Oregon.

Timothy Kincaid
June 16th, 2009 | LINK

Bruno,

I too expect this to end up in court. However, that may be advantageous.

It will be interesting to see how Wisconsin’s Supremes view the argument that gay couples can be excluded from creating a structure under which they can jointly own property or enjoy inheritance laws.

Saying that gay folk are denied even this minor convenience due to the orientation of the members of the partnership may be so aggregious that it could cause their amendement to be thrown out entirely. If gay couples cannot even inherit under Wisconsin’s amendment, then that amendement may be in violation of Romer.

But that’s just my speculation. I’m not an attorney.

I do know, however, that anti-gays are often extemists and absolutists. This works against them.

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