Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle has
included the creation of domestic partnerships for gay couples in his
budget plan unveiled in Madison on Tuesday.
The measure is the first attempt by any
midwestern state to extend even a limited number of protections for
The Democratic governor's domestic
partnership proposal seeks to extend limited protections to gay and
lesbian couples including hospital visitation rights, power to make
end of life decisions, and the right to inherit property, pensions
In 2003, while serving his first term
as governor, Doyle vetoed a bill passed with overwhelming Republican
support that would have defined marriage as a heterosexual union.
That did not stop gay rights foes, however, and by 2006 they had
prevailed in amending the state's constitution.
The marriage amendment approved by
voters clearly defines marriage as between a man and a woman and
prohibits the state from creating “substantially similar”
Gay rights opponents say that the
“substantially similar” clause will keep the bill from passing.
But Democrats, who now control the
Legislature, gave Doyle a standing ovation.
“It is also time to make sure our
state takes some basic steps towards fairness and decency,” Doyle
said in his budget address to the Legislature. “This isn't an
issue of being gay or straight – we are not judging people's lives
here. But I don't want the state to stand in the way of someone
being able to care for their long-term partner. And I don't want the
state to be less competitive at our university and other institutions
because we don't treat people fairly.”
“This is an important step toward
ensuring that someone in a committed relationship is able to care for
his or her partner,” Glenn Carlson, executive director of Fair
Wisconsin, said in a statement. “No one should ever have to worry
about being blocked at their partner's hospital room door, or have to
make the heartbreaking decision to quit their job in order to care
for a seriously ill partner. This isn't about being gay or straight
– it's about being decent.”
“We commend Gov. Doyle for his
leadership on this issue,” he added.
Openly gay Rep. Mark Pocan (Democrat)
of Madison, the co-chair of the Joint Finance Committee, told local
broadcaster NBC 15 that he believes the domestic partnership
provisions will survive.
“It [the constitutional amendment]
said you couldn't have something that was marriage or substantially
similar,” Pocan said. “Having a simple domestic partnership
entity created that provides hospital visitation and end of life
disposal remains is hardly an equal balance. I think it will be just
fine where it's at.”
In 1990, the city of Madison created a
domestic registry for gay and lesbian couples, and in December, Dane
County enacted a similar measure.