Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Wisconsin Becomes First Midwestern State to Legislatively Enact Protections for Same-Sex Couples

From the office of State Representative Mark Pocan:

Madison – Yesterday, Governor Jim Doyle signed into law basic legal protections for same-sex couples, as part of the 2009-11 biennial budget. This makes Wisconsin the first state in the Midwest to legislatively enact basic legal protections for same-sex couples.

“This is a historic development that will make a difference in the lives of thousands of gay and lesbian families across the state. No longer will committed, long-time partners be treated like legal strangers to each other,” said State Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Madison) who, as co-chair of the Joint Finance Committee, was instrumental in crafting and passing the domestic partnership provisions in the state budget. “While this is just one step of many on the way to true equality in Wisconsin, this is a historic moment we should celebrate. I thank all of the legislators who voted for the budget and the Governor for supporting basic fairness for LGBT families.”

Starting Monday, August 3, committed same-sex couples will be able to sign a declaration of domestic partnership at county clerk offices and have the security of over 40 limited, yet critical, legal protections. To qualify for the protections two individuals must be at least 18 years old, members of the same-sex, share a common residence, not be nearer of kin than second cousins, and not be married or in another domestic partnership.

Opponents of the measure claim that it violates the constitutional amendment banning marriage and any status that is “substantially similar” to marriage, despite saying in 2006 that the amendment would not prohibit domestic partnership. However, the nonpartisan Legislative Council found that the domestic partner law is not “substantially similar” to marriage.

“Our hope is that opponents of basic equality will allow LGBT families to live in peace with the security of these new protections. If you’ve shared your life with another person for 20 years, should you be able to take time off work if your partner suddenly learns she is dying of cancer? The vast majority of Wisconsinites would say yes. It’s the fair and decent thing to do,” said Rep. Pocan.

The domestic partnership protections include the following:
  • Family leave for sick or dying partner;
  • Hospital visitation;
  • Ability to admit incapacitated partner to nursing facility;
  • Ability to access partners medical records;
  • Death benefits for partners of police and firefighters killed in the line of duty;
  • Ability to file suit for wrongful death;
  • Crime victim compensation;
  • Crime victim notification;
  • Transfer real estate without paying fee;
  • Presumption of joint tenancy;
  • Immunity from testifying against a domestic partner;
  • Ability to inherit partner’s estate;
  • Rights related to power of attorney for property and finances;
  • Ability to consent to autopsy for deceased partner;
  • Ability to make anatomical donation in the event of partner’s death.
For a full summary of the domestic partnership protections, see the Legislative Fiscal Bureau paper: http://www.legis.wisconsin.gov/lfb/2009-11Budget/Budget%20Papers/391.pdf

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