How Gov. Doyle’s Domestic Partnership Protections Skirt a Constitutional Ban


Sorry, bigots! Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle’s plan to give same-sex couples some legal protections doesn’t violate the State Constitution, which bans us from receiving certain pieces of paper but not, according to Doyle, the right to love and care for our partners.

Back in 2006, some 59 percent of Wisconsin’s voters approved an amendment limiting marriage to one man and one woman, banning same-sex marriage, and prohibiting anything “substantially similar to marriage.” A lawsuit battling the amendment hit a State Court of Appeals, which asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to take up the matter; it accepted.

In the meantime, Democratic Gov. Doyle is trying to push through some protections for same-sex couples, creating a domestic partner registry at the county level and enabling registered couples to share health care benefits, take medical leave for an ill partner, and be able to make that “pull the plug” call. (“Divorces,” or terminations of the relationship, would be a matter of filing paperwork with the county clerk.) The organization Fair Wisconsin says domestic partners would receive some 43 benefits of the 200 married couples receive.

Except opponents are using the constitutional amendment as grounds to battle back, saying Doyle’s proposal is indeed too similar to marriage.

But? That’s not so, says the state’s Legislative Council, which studied the issue and says “comprehensive, core aspects of the legal status of marriage in Wisconsin” would not be afforded to domestic partners; Doyle already reached this conclusion.

But don’t expect it to be an easy fight. Opponents are readying their court papers.

Meanwhile, here’s a piece of trivia that just popped up on our radar: “A 1915 statute prohibits residents disqualified from marrying in Wisconsin from going to another state or country to wed. Anyone who violates the law can be fined $10,000 and imprisoned for up to nine months.” So those five (soon to be six) states that allow same-sex marriage? They’re off limits for Wisconsin residents.