December 21, 2012

The Wisconsin Court of Appeals today announced that the state’s law granting domestic partnership protections to same-sex couples will be upheld.

The ACLU’s amicus brief was filed on behalf of five couples who stood to lose crucial protections such as hospital visitation, the ability to make certain decisions about medical care and to access family medical leave if the law is overturned.

“Committed same-sex couples in Wisconsin only want the peace of mind of being able to protect and provide for each other like any other married couple,” said John Knight, staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project. “Because they are denied the freedom to marry, these couples just wanted to hold on to the limited protections afforded to them by the domestic partnership law. To strip them of these would have been cruel and unjust.”

The law was challenged by members of Wisconsin Family Action, Inc., an anti-LGBT organization that contends that the law granted same-sex couples a substantially similar status to marriage, which is barred by the Wisconsin Constitution. The same organization originally campaigned to secure the marriage amendment’s passage, claiming at the time that domestic partnerships would not be affected.

“While domestic partnership protections don’t provide quite the same security as marriage, they are crucial for same-sex couples in times of crisis,” said Larry Dupuis, legal director of the ACLU of Wisconsin. “We’re grateful that the court will allow these families to continue to benefit from these limited protections for their families.”

One of the couples represented by the ACLU is Katy Heyning and Judi Trampf.

“We know the people of Wisconsin did not wish to exclude domestic partnerships when the marriage amendment was passed and we’re thrilled that the court has upheld the constitutionality of the domestic partnership law,” said Heyning. “We are pleased that the limited protections we receive as registered domestic partners to visit each other in the hospital and take care of one another will not be taken away. After being together as a committed couple for 23 years, it only seems fair that we should hold onto this much.”  

In addition to Dupuis and Knight, the legal team representing the couples includes Linda Hansen, Daniel Manna and David Goroff of Foley & Lardner, LLP.

Additional information about the case, including bios of the couples and legal documents, is available at:

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