Thursday, July 30, 2009

Domestic partnerships challenged in Wisconsin

Gay and lesbian couples statewide can begin filing for domestic partnership benefits starting on Monday. These benefits include hospital visitation rights, sick leave for when a partner becomes ill, and inheritance rights upon the death of a partner, among other basic privileges common for couples.

Domestic partners will be required to live with one another to prove partnership and will have to pay a fee of $115 in cash. They must also file for partnership benefits within the county they reside in.

It sounds like a pretty good compromise, in terms of the gay marriage debate in Wisconsin -- same-sex couples gain some benefits (but not all they would like) while opponents of gay marriage keep the supposed "sanctity" of marriage intact (at least, sanctity in their eyes). There's still a long battle ahead for gay marriage in the future, a battle still worth fighting for that should be continued. Even so, domestic partnerships are a step in the right direction in terms of granting gays and lesbians some recognition of relationship status in the state.

For others, however, any recognition of rights for same-sex partners is too much for them to handle. The Wisconsin Family Council (WFC) is mounting a legal challenge to overturn domestic partnerships in Wisconsin. Their argument centers upon the belief that such recognition amounts to "a legal status identical or substantially similar to marriage," which contradicts the state constitutional ban on gay marriage passed in the fall of 2006.

Such a challenge shows the blatant bigotry present within the WFC. Having zero effect upon straight marriages whatsoever, the domestic partnership law allows gay and lesbian couples the right to privileges without the hassle or the normal bureaucracy of gaining each privilege individually -- something they could do in the past anyway, but through a much lengthier and costly process, and without legal recognition from the state.

If their true motivation is to preserve marriages in the state, the WFC should consider non-governmental ways to do so, and should perhaps look at lowering the divorce rate of straights instead of trying to meddle in the lives of committed same-sex couples. Maybe then they'd look like promoters of marriage rather than the pushers of hate, something their current agenda makes them appear to be.

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