Saturday, May 23, 2009

Two domestic parternship proposals advance in Wisconsin despite constitutional bans on same-sex marriages and "substantially similar" relationships

05/22/09 Wisconsin Joint Finance Committee Budget Blog:

The Joint Finance Committee approved two domestic partnership plans on May 22nd that are among provisions of AB 75, the Biennial Budget Bill. One proposal would extend health insurance and retirement benefits to domestic partners of state employees, for both same-sex and opposite-sex partners; the other would establish same-sex domestic partnerships and confer upon same-sex domestic partners "certain rights and benefits that parallel some of the rights and benefits provided to spouses under current law." Among such rights are rights to join ownership of property, inheritance of assets, hospital visitation, power of attorney for health care, and access to medical records.

While these proposals are limited in scope, I have explained why I think they have exceptional importance in a state whose constitution [Art. XIII, Sec. 13] not only bans same-sex marriages, but also "substantially similar" relationships. The Wisconsin Legislative Council recently found that the domestic partnership provisions do not violate the state constitution. The Joint Finance Committee adopted the following motion when approving these provisions:

"The Legislature finds that it is in the interests of the citizens of this state to establish and provide the parameters for a legal status of domestic partnership. The Legislature further finds that the legal status of domestic partnership, as established in this chapter, is not substantially similar to that of marriage. Nothing in this chapter shall be construed as inconsistent with, or a violation of, article XIII, section 13, of the Wisconsin Constitution."

05/22/09 AP (Source: Gay Marriage Watch):

"We are simply trying to allow for committed same-sex couples to get some of the most basic protections allowed by state government," said Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, the openly gay co-chair of the Joint Finance Committee who married his partner in Canada in 2006.

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