If domestic partnerships become law, Wisconsin would be the first state with an existing constitutional amendment banning marriage equality and civil unions to provide domestic partnership protections for same-sex couples.
The Wisconsin Legislative Council issued an opinion on May 6th, 2009, supporting the legality of domestic partnerships under the constitutional amendment, stating "it is reasonable to conclude that the domestic partnerships proposed...do not confer a legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals in violation of art. XIII, s.13."
To be eligible for a domestic partnership, two individuals must be of the same sex, both be at least 18 years old, share a common residence, not be nearer of kin than second cousins, and neither party can be married or in another domestic partnership with anyone else. Domestic partnerships will be administered at the county level, and couples must sign a legal declaration of their commitment.
Will Wisconsin get Domestic Partnership Benefits before Illinois?
Now wouldn't that be a kick in the pants if Wisconsin gets Domestic Partnerships before Illinois? First it was Iowa, then we had our chance but those guys and gals down in Springfield didn't want to discuss it in this session, and now Wisconsin is on our heels. We'll be surrounded by states that protect their LGBT Partnerships and we'll still be sitting here with our thumbs stuck up our...well you know!
Over the weekend the Wisconsin State Assembly passed the biennial state budget that includes important - and limited - domestic partnership protections for same-sex couples. Those benefits include the ability for same-sex couples, in a committed relationship, to visit their partner in a hospital if they are ill and the ability to Family Medical Leave (FMLA) to care for a sick or injured partner.
These aren't full on Civil Union rights or marriage equality, but it's a step in the right direction, a way for a same-sex couple to know that if one of them is ill their partner has the right to care for them.
The Assembly passed the budget with a margin of 50-48 and now it's on to the State Senate where it's scheduled to be read sometime this week. When it's approved Governor Doyle is expcted to sign the legislation into law and take effect by the end of June. Wouldn't that be a nice Pride present?
Here's something interesting I found on the Fair Wisconsin Blog:
If you have family and/or friends in Wisconsin, call them up and tell them that they need to call their State Senator and voice their support of Domestic Partnerships benefits. Wisconsin residents can send a message to their Senator via this link