A step forward

Wisconsin will become the first state in the nation with an existing constitutional amendment banning marriage equality and civil unions to enact domestic partnerships today when Governor Doyle signs the biennial state budget. The bill grants important and limited protections to same-sex couples in caring, committed relationships, including hospital visitation and the ability to take Family Medical Leave to care for a sick or injured partner. This makes Wisconsin the first state in the Midwest to legislatively enact protections for same-sex couples – putting the state whose motto is “Forward” back on a progressive track with this important step towards equality.

This historic achievement further illustrates the Wisconsin values of fairness and decency. “This is an important step toward ensuring that someone in a caring, committed relationship is able to care for his or her partner,” said Glenn Carlson, retiring Executive Director of Fair Wisconsin. “Fair Wisconsin applauds our Governor and state legislators who realize that no one should ever have to worry about being blocked at their partner’s hospital room door, or have to make the heartbreaking decision to quit their job in order to care for a seriously ill partner. This isn’t about being gay or straight—it’s about being decent.”

“Today is a tremendous victory for fairness,” says Fair Wisconsin Legislative Director and incoming Executive Director Katie Belanger. “We are very grateful for the exceptional leadership of Governor Doyle, the Co-Chairs of the Joint Finance Committee Rep. Mark Pocan and Sen. Mark Miller, and the many state legislators who recognize and value our state’s same-sex couples. They know that the government shouldn’t stand in the way of someone being able to care for their long-term partner.”

The Wisconsin Legislative Council issued an opinion on May 6th, 2009, supporting the legality of domestic partnerships under the constitutional amendment, stating “it is reasonable to conclude that the domestic partnerships proposed…do not confer a legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals in violation of art. XIII, s.13.”

To be eligible for a domestic partnership, two individuals must be of the same sex, both be at least 18 years old, share a common residence, not be nearer of kin than second cousins, and neither party can be married or in another domestic partnership with anyone else. Domestic partnerships will be administered at the county level, and couples must sign a legal declaration of their commitment. Couples can begin registering for a domestic partnership in 30 days.

by Christine Callsen

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