Domestic partnerships for same-sex couples have been recognized in Wisconsin as of August 3, 2009 despite same-sex marriage and "a legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals" being banned by Wisconsin statutes and a constitutional amendment in 2006.

The domestic partnership plan was passed as part of the biennial state budget bill, and was approved by the Wisconsin State Assembly in a 50–48 vote on June 13, 2009[1] and by the Wisconsin Senate in a 17–16 vote on June 17, 2009.[2] It was signed by governor Jim Doyle on June 29, 2009.[3]

Domestic partnerships in Wisconsin provide many rights, such as the ability to inherit a partner’s estate in the absence of a will, hospital visitation, and the ability to access family medical leave to care for a sick partner. A domestic partnership can be registered at the county level, with couples having to sign a legal declaration of their commitment. To be eligible for a domestic partnership, two individuals must be of the same sex, both be at least 18 years old, share a common residence, not be nearer of kin than second cousins, and neither party can be married or in another domestic partnership with anyone else.[4]

Enumerated rights

Wisconsin's domestic partnership law provides 43 rights and protections to couples, in contrast to more than 200 protections granted to married couples by state law. Among the rights enumerated:

  • Administration and transfer of deceased partner's estate
    • Ability to inherit partner's estate in the absence of a will
    • Priority with respect to certain personal property
    • Can be awarded the couple’s home and vehicles that are titled in the name of the deceased partner, as well as personal and household items of the deceased partner, by a probate court
    • Exempting certain property transferred to the surviving partner from creditors' claims
    • Family support during administration of a deceased individual's estate
    • Transfer of real estate titles without paying fee
    • Transfer of motor vehicle titles
  • Other rights
    • Presumption of joint tenancy in real estate
    • Rights related to power of attorney for property and finances
    • Family leave for sick or dying partner
    • Hospital visitation
    • Ability to admit incapacitated partner to nursing home
    • Ability to access deceased or incapacitated partner's medical records
    • Ability to file suit for wrongful death
    • Right to receive death benefits if the deceased partner was killed in a workplace accident
    • Crime victim compensation
    • Immunity from testifying against partner
    • Ability to consent to autopsy for deceased partner
    • Ability to make anatomical donation in the event of partner's death


March 5, 2004: The Wisconsin State Assembly approved, by a vote of 68-27, a state constitutional amendment reading:

"Only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state. A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized in this state."[5]

March 12, 2004: The Wisconsin State Senate voted 20-13 to pass that state's amendment, which must still be passed again in next year's legislature, and be voted on in a state-wide referendum.[6]

December 6, 2005: The Wisconsin State Senate voted a second time in favor of the amendment. The vote is 19-14 and is along party lines.[7]

February 28, 2006: The Wisconsin State Assembly voted for the second time in favor of the amendment. The question appeared on ballots statewide on November 7, 2006.[8]

November 7, 2006: Wisconsin voters passed the amendment by a margin of 59.4%-40.6%.[9][10]

February 17, 2009: Wisconsin governor Jim Doyle proposed legislation for same-sex partnerships in Wisconsin.[11]

April 9, 2009: The Wisconsin Supreme Court is asked in McConkey v. Van Hollen to rule on whether or not Wisconsin Referendum 1 (2006), which banned both same-sex marriage and civil unions in the state, is constitutional. William McConkey, a political science instructor, has claimed that the measure violated the state's constitution because it proposed more than one question in a single ballot proposal, which is illegal under Wisconsin law.[12]

May 14, 2009: The Wisconsin Supreme Court agreed to hear McConkey's appeal and gave the parties 30 days to file briefs. The court will decide two questions. First it must decide if McConkey, as an individual voter, has standing to sue. Wisconsin Attorney General J. B. Van Hollen has claimed that he does not. If it finds he does have standing, it will then rule whether the ballot measure did illegally present two questions.[13] In certifying the case, the Supreme Court said it acquired jurisdiction of “the entire appeal, which includes all issues, not merely the issues certified or the issue for which the court accepts the certification.”[14]

June 13, 2009: Wisconsin Assembly passed budget, by vote of 50-48, which includes domestic partnerships for same-sex couples.[15][16]

June 17, 2009: Wisconsin Senate passed budget, by vote of 17-16, which includes domestic partnerships for same-sex couples.[17][18]

June 29, 2009: Governor Jim Doyle signed the budget.[19]

July 23, 2009: Three members of Wisconsin Family Action filed a petition for an original action in the Wisconsin Supreme Court, Appling v. Doyle, seeking a declaration that the domestic partner registry is unconstitutional under the state's Marriage Protection Amendment.[20]

August 3, 2009: Domestic Partnership law went into effect.[21]

November 3, 2009: Oral arguments were heard for McConkey v. Van Hollen. A decision is expected by summer 2010.[22][23]

November 4, 2009: Wisconsin Supreme Court rejected Appling v. Doyle, Wisconsin Family Action's legal challenge to domestic partnerships.[24]

See also


  1. State Assembly Votes to Approve Domestic Partnerships!, Fair Wisconsin
  2. The State Senate Approves Domestic Partnerships!, Fair Wisconsin
  3. [1]
  4. 2009 Wisconsin Act 28, s. 775, p. 186.
  5. Assembly Joint Resolution 66, Journal of the Wisconsin Assembly, March 5, 2004, p. 798.
  6. Assembly Joint Resolution 66, Journal of the Wisconsin Senate, March 11, 2004, p. 717. The final vote was taken shortly after midnight on March 12.
  7. Senate Joint Resolution 53, Journal of the Wisconsin Senate, Dec. 6, 2005, p. 488.
  8. Senate Joint Resolution 53, Journal of the Wisconsin Assembly, Feb. 28, 2006, p. 862
  9. Canvass Summary, Wisconsin State Elections Board, Fall General Election, Nov. 7, 2006.
  11. 2009 Assembly Bill 75, passim.
  12. Wisconsin amendment supreme court
  13. Foley, Ryan J.. "Wis. high court to review 2006 gay marriage ban", The Washington Post, Associated Press, 2009-05-14. Retrieved on 2009-05-15. 
  14. "Supreme Court accepts four new cases", Headlines Archive, Wisconsin Court System, May 21, 2009.
  15. Assembly Bill 75, Journal of the Wisconsin Assembly, June 11, 2009, p. 263–264. The vote was taken after midnight on June 13.
  16. All-Nighter: Assembly Passes Budget
  17. Assembly Bill 75, Wisconsin Senate Journal, June 17, 2009, p. 218.
  19. Pitsch, Mark. "Doyle signs budget, vetoes binding referendum on RTA tax", The Wisconsin State Journal, 2009-06-29. Retrieved on 2009-06-30. 
  20. "Pro-Family Group Defends the People, the Constitution and Marriage" (press release), Wisconsin Family Action, July 23, 2009.
  22. Christopher Magnum, Wis. Supreme Court Hears Gay Marriage Case,, Nov. 3, 2009.
  23. Patrick Marley, State Supreme Court hears arguments on gay marriage amendment, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Nov. 3, 2009.
  24. "Wisconsin Supreme Court Rejects Case Seeking to Strip Away Domestic Partnership Protections" (press release), Fair Wisconsin, Nov. 4, 2009.

External links

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Same-sex unions in the United States

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