Fair Wisconsin is proud to have played a major role in securing an important and historic victory for the LGBT community when Wisconsin Governor Doyle signed domestic partnerships into law on June 29, 2009. No other state with a constitutional amendment banning both marriage equality and civil unions has made such a strong, forward-thinking action. This also makes Wisconsin the first state in the Midwest to legislatively enact protections for same-sex couples.
While there is a long way to go to gain full equality under the law, this step is a major milestone in the quest for fairness. It was made possible by thousands of grassroots advocates statewide who joined Fair Wisconsin in lobbying their legislators, telling their story and never giving up on the cause of fairness.
Fair Wisconsin worked with lawmakers, legislative drafters, legal counsel and many others to help craft a law to provide important and meaningful protections. We have put a guide together for couples who wish to register as domestic partners and start securing dozens of rights for themselves and their families. For detailed information about domestic partnerships or how to register, please download a copy of our domestic partnership reference guide.
What are Domestic Partnership Protections?
Domestic partnership protections provide a set of limited legal protections to same-sex committed couples in Wisconsin. They provide protections such as requiring hospitals and nursing homes to allow visitation for domestic partners, inheritance, and permitting family medical leave in the event of the death or serious illness of a domestic partner.
The Need for Domestic Partnerships
Since the passage of domestic partnership protections in June of 2009, over 1,500 committed same-sex couples from across Wisconsin have registered for domestic partnerships. Along with the nearly 15,000 other same-sex couples in Wisconsin, these partners live in every county in Wisconsin, are racially and ethnically diverse, depend upon one another financially, and actively participate in Wisconsin’s economy.
However, same-sex couples have fewer economic resources to provide for their families than do their married counterparts: they have lower household incomes and lower rates of home ownership. This is in part because committed same-sex couples do not have access to the full rights, responsibilities and obligations of full marriage equality, which includes over 200 protections under state law and 1,138 protections under federal law.
Domestic partnerships allow these committed and loving couples a limited level of protection by allowing domestic partners to take family leave from work to care for one another, the ability to make end of life decisions if their partner is unable, and visit their partner in the hospital if they are sick.
Defending Domestic Partnerships
Lawyers representing three board members of Wisconsin Family Action filed a lawsuit with the Wisconsin Supreme Court on July 23, 2009 asserting that domestic partnership protections violated the 2006 amendment banning marriage equality and civil unions.
Fair Wisconsin, along with Lambda Legal, filed as intervenors in this case. We felt that it was critical that the voices of Fair Wisconsin, our members and Wisconsin’s 15,000 same-sex couples were a part of the case that attempted to strip away some of the most basic protections for committed couples.
The Supreme Court refused to hear the challenge to domestic partnerships on November 4, 2009.
On Wednesday, August 18, Wisconsin Family Action and the Alliance Defense Fund refiled their legal challenge in Dane County Circuit Court. Fair Wisconsin will continue defending these critical protections in the months and years ahead.