WI Ban on Gay Marriage Does not Stop Partner Benefits

December 29, 2006 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - The Attorney General of Wisconsin has ruled that the state's ban on same-sex marriage does not mean employers must stop providing domestic partner benefits to employees.

The Associated Press reports Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager said in her advisory opinion the language in a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage shows “that neither the Legislature nor the people intended to invalidate domestic partnerships when they adopted this provision.” The amendment was approved by voters in November.

Lautenschlager was asked by the city of Madison to clarify whether the amendment affected its ability to offer benefits to domestic partners of employees, according to the AP. Lautenschlager said that, even though attorney general opinions are advisory, courts can rely on them when making decisions.

In May, a Utah state court decided an ordinance approved by Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson giving same-sex domestic partners of city workers some of the benefits provided to spouses did not violate the state’s Defense of Marriage law (See Utah Court Rules Domestic Partner Benefits Ordinance Legal). The court noted health benefits are not a perquisite of marriage, but of employment.

In September, it was announced that a lawsuit had been filed against New York State Comptroller Alan Hevesi challenging his authority to recognize Canadian same-sex marriages for public retirement system benefits (See NY Comptroller Sued for Recognizing Same-Sex Marriages ).