Defending Wisconsin domestic partnerships

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a brief in the Wisconsin Supreme Court on behalf of four same-sex couples and the LGBT Chamber of Commerce asking the Court to affirm the lower court rulings that the state’s domestic partner law does not violate Wisconsin’s anti-gay marriage amendment. Anti-gay activists have asked the Court to strike down the domestic partner law as inconsistent with the marriage amendment.

Prior to the current lawsuit, the same activists petitioned the Wisconsin Supreme Court directly, claiming that they needed a speedy decision because the modest legal protections granted to same-sex couples through the law somehow affected the marriages of straight couples. The Wisconsin Supreme Court dismissed the case, so the petitioners filed a new case in circuit court. Our motion to intervene on behalf of same-sex couples was denied, but we were given leave to file a friend-of-the-court (amicus) brief.  The trial court ruled against the plaintiffs as did the court of appeals, where we also filed an amicus brief.  Our amicus brief in the Wisconsin Supreme Court argues that finding the domestic partner law unconstitutional is bad for business, since the domestic partner law complements the decisions of Wisconsin employers to provide domestic partner benefits and helps them attract and retain the best employees.  It also argues that domestic partner benefit programs were in place with criteria like those in the challenged domestic partner law at the time the marriage amendment was debated and passed.  The amendment proponents’ assured voters that existing domestic partner programs would be secure, so striking down the domestic partner law would violate voter expectations regarding the scope of the amendment

Status: VICTORY! On July 31, 2014, the Wisconsin Supreme Court uninaimously ruled to protect domestic partnership provisions without discrimination on the basis of gender.

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