[Editor's Note:Katie Belanger is the Legislative Director with Fair Wisconsin, an organization dedicated to protecting the civil rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Wisconsin through education, advocacy, grassroots organizing and electoral work.]
Wisconsin is poised to be the second state in the Heartland to recognize gay and lesbian couples. In his February budget address, Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle included limited domestic partnership protections for the state's same-sex couples in his biennial budget proposal. The proposed domestic partnerships would grant basic legal protections to committed same-sex couples, including hospital visitation, the ability to take Family Medical Leave to care for a sick or injured partner, and the ability to make end of life decisions for a domestic partner.
Wisconsin is fortunate that not only our Governor, but key leaders in our State Legislature, have come out in favor of domestic partnerships. In these tough economic times, it is truly inspiring to have a Governor and legislative leadership who take a stand alongside the LGBT community for fairness and equality.
Like so many other states, the LGBT and allied community in Wisconsin suffered a heartbreaking defeat when voters approved a constitutional amendment banning marriage and any legal status "substantially similar" to marriage in 2006. Since then, we at Fair Wisconsin have been working to educate our members, the general public, and elected officials that this harmful amendment should not and will not stop us from providing crucial protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Wisconsin. Domestic partnerships are an important step for gay and lesbian couples in Wisconsin and their enactment would be the first piece of pro-fairness legislation to pass in our state in more than 20 years.
This Wednesday, the Wisconsin State Assembly is poised to vote on the state budget. This vote will be absolutely critical to our success. We know that conservatives will move to strip these critical protections from the budget, and we are ready to beat back these attempts.
If you live in Wisconsin, or have friends or family there, we need your help today. Please join us in contacting state legislators and asking them to support this important step towards equality:
To learn more about Fair Wisconsin or stay updated on the progress of the domestic partnership protections (as well as other news!) visit us at www.fairwisconsin.com.