Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle signs legislation to give same-sex couples limited domestic partnership benefits

07/01/09 The Capital Times (source: Gay Marriage Watch):

The Wisconsin Constitution (Art.I, Sec.25) bans not only same-sex marriages, but also civil unions that are "substantially similar" to marriage. Governor Jim Doyle yesterday signed legislation that he understands the state constitution to allow - the recognition of limited domestic partnerships for same-sex couples:

Along with the recognition come dozens of legal protections that previously were only granted to married couples, including the right to take family leave to care for a sick or dying partner, the ability to access a partner's medical records and the right to inherit a partner's property.
Governor Doyle also approved of legislation that extends health care benefits to the same-sex partners of state employees.

By granting recognition of limited domestic partnerships, Wisconsin has now distinguished itself among states whose constitutions ban same-sex marriages and restrict recognition of domestic partnerships. But a survey of relevant constitutional amendments in these states might show that, like Michigan, they have more latitude for effectively banning domestic partnerships.

The new laws probably face state constitutional challenges. However, a recent trial court ruling gives defendants grounds not only to sustain the Governor's interpretation of Art.I, Sec.25, but to reverse a 1992 precedent [Phillips v. Wisconsin Personnel Commission, 167 Wis.2d 2005, 482 N.W.2d 121 (Wis. Ct. App. 1992)] that upheld denial of benefits to same-sex partners of public employees. Professor Arthur Leonard analyzes this ruling here.

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