WI Government Agencies Ask to Intervene in Domestic Partner Case

July 12, 2005 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Officials from eight local Wisconsin governments including the city of Green Bay plan to ask a judge's permission to intervene in a lawsuit filed against the state that is trying to get unemployment benefits extended to state workers' domestic partners.

The local governments’ lawyer, Michael Dean, said municipalities and schools are concerned that if the state loses the case, they, too, could be forced to provide the costly benefits to the domestic partners of their workers, according to a news report in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel . “There would be exceptional fallout for local government,” Dean said. “Our concern is that if they have to provide these benefits there would be substantial increases in their costs.”

The lawsuit was filed in April by a group of lesbian state employees, who allege that it is a violation of the equal protection clause of the state Constitution to deny employment benefits to the partners of gay and lesbian employees.

Dean said it should be up to elected local officials to decide whether to extend benefits to domestic partners of municipal and school employees, and some municipalities have done so. But such a decision should not be forced on local governments by a judge, he said. “You just can’t wrap all that up in a simplistic decision about the equal protection clause,” Dean told the newspaper.

The Republican-controlled state Legislature also is seeking to intervene in the lawsuit and has agreed to be represented in the case by the Alliance Defense Fund, a public interest law firm, according to the Journal Sentinel.