Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Same-sex partners of Wisconsin state employees do not qualify for employer benefits, but judge finds equal protection argument compelling

06/03/09 update

Here is the ruling.

06/02/09 Gay Marriage Watch

The Court’s opinion states: “The plaintiffs have offered a strong showing that the employment benefits in issue have been provided on a discriminatory basis. The defendants’ explanations offered for the continuing discrimination against these plaintiffs are unpersuasive and inadequate.”

05/30/09 entry

05/30/09 Wisconsin State Journal:

I can't assess the impact that this Wisconsin Circuit Court ruling will have on Governor Jim Doyle's proposals to establish limited domestic partnerships and to allow medical insurance and other employer benefits for same-sex partners of Wisconsin state employees. (The case is Hegeland et al. v. Dept. of Employee Trust Funds et al., Dane County Circuit Court, Case No. 2005CV001265.) An earlier version of the proposal was thought to "address the factual basis on which the complaint rests." However, the ruling warrants attention in a state whose constitution [Art. XIII, Sec. 13] not only bans same-sex marriages, but also "substantially similar" relationships:

In [a] 1992 appeals court decision, the judges ruled that state statutes controlling benefits did not violate the state constitution’s equal protection clause because they were “keyed to marriage,” and applied equally to heterosexual and homosexual couples ... Had the 1992 decision not been made, [the judge in this case] wrote, “this court would find that the plaintiffs have proven that the state law provisions which preclude equal treatment as to sick leave, health insurance and family leave deny the plaintiffs equal protection of law and thus are in violation of Article 1, Section 1 of the Wisconsin Constitution.”

I have contacted the ACLU of Wisconsin for the ruling. As rulings like this one increase, they have the potential - together with legislative and ballot reforms - to change public opinion even in states that constitutionally ban same-sex marriage.

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