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Wisconsin Domestic Partnerships Vital, Need To Survive

July 30, 2009

The legal minds that assisted in constructing the budget for Wisconsin this year, and those who have studied the language since passage, seem satisfied that the portion dealing with domestic partnerships is constitutional.  That fact, and the lack of any emotional outcry in the months of debate in the State Legislature tell me two things.  One is that the authors and proponents of this idea are rooted in legal cement, and second the public is not adverse to this plan that brings a dose of sanity back to the issue  of domestic relations in Wisconsin. 

The fact we are even needing to have such a plan enacted in Wisconsin is in itself maddening.  As a consequence of the the mean-spirited nature of placing a marriage amendment  for political purposes on the ballot in 2006, and the shallow and at times mistaken nature of what was actually being voted on, brings us to this point in time.   Add on the galling responses in 2006 who supported the amendment that they did not want to stop such ideas as domestic partnerships, only to have them now line up to petition the Supreme Court to do that very thing, and one  can rightfully understand how gay citizens in Wisconsin are very upset.

There are equal rights in Wisconsin that are not being experienced by all, and the domestic partnership plan will help attain those rights .  This plan does not go far enough for certain, but at least it gets us moving in the correct direction again.

A couple years ago after helping a friend change a tire, we were putting items back in his trunk when I saw a file of legal papers he kept.  I understood instantly the files were there in the case he or his partner were involved in a medical situation on the road which required a hospital or doctor to be aware that this couple could and wanted to make decisions for each other in emergencies.  We talked about it for a couple minutes and he told me included in the file were hospital visitation authorizations, living wills, directives to attending physicians, powers of attorney forms for both health care and finance that were notarized and signed by a raft of people.  Additionally, there were forms for declaration of domestic partner status; a non-binding legal agreement to support the other documents claiming that the one had the right to assist the other in any situation.  All of the forms were in duplicate and reciprocal, and must have cost a fair amount in attorney’s fees.

That is the reality of being gay in Wisconsin.  To ensure that basic rights and dignities are afforded gay couples, they must carry expensive legal documents with them–and then even some of those documents may not be honored, and they are to expect that.  How many straight couples have you talked with that need and require the same such paperwork in the case of an accident?  How many expect in advance that their wishes may or may not be honored in a time of crisis?

The opponents of domestic partnerships can hide behind legal paperwork, but for many in the state the reality is that being prepared for the worst is a daily reminder of how tenuous equality and justice can be.

Think about it, and then say that the domestic partnership plan is not worthy of survival.

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