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Hospital visitation rights for same sex couples under threat in Wisconsin

By Stephen C. Webster
Tuesday, May 17, 2011 16:01 EDT
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Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (R) this week asked a judge if the state may stop defending a law that gives citizens in same sex relationships the right to visit their partner if they’re in a hospital.

Passed by Democrats in 2009, the state’s domestic partnership registry was meant to give same sex couples more rights. While it succeeded in doing so, rights for domestic partners in Wisconsin do not rise to the level of special rights granted by marriage.

It allows anyone to register a domestic partner with the state, who can then visit them in the hospital, make key end-of-life decisions and inherit property in the event of one partner’s death.

Gov. Walker contends that this is unconstitutional. According to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel examination of the governor’s legal brief, he claims that allowing partners these basic rights does not serve “the public interest,” insisting that the state should not have to pay attorneys to defend it.

The registry’s very existence is currently being challenged by a lawsuit from Wisconsin Family Action (WFA), an anti-gay conservative group. The current suit is actually the second brought by WFA: their first was shot down by the state’s supreme court, which declined to even hear the argument.

A slim majority of the state’s voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2006 that banned not only same sex marriage, but also any “legal status identical or substantially similar to marriage.”

The Sentinel noted that about 1,500 domestic partnerships have been registered state-wide.

Read the full report.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
 
 
 
 
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