How Far the Ban Goes -- What It Means in Milwaukee

I had the pleasure of working on a successful campaign in 1999 to create a domestic partner registry for City of Milwaukee residents. The registry is used by gay and lesbian couples in Milwaukee to publicly declare their commitment to each other. What’s more, employers like SBC, Wells Fargo, Medical College of Wisconsin, and the City of Milwaukee, use the registry to determine if an employee’s family is eligible for the company’s domestic partner health insurance. In October, Teresa, a resident of Milwaukee’s South Side, called me at the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center to ask if there was a way that she could publicly register as domestic partners with her partner of fourteen years. Teresa is one of a growing number of Americans who work without company health insurance (a 2005 study by Diverse and Resilient, a Wisconsin health promotion group, revealed that gay and lesbian Wisconsinites are much more likely to lack health insurance for a family member than heterosexuals, most likely because of the inability to access family benefits at work through marriage or civil unions), but her partner’s employer recently made health insurance available to registered domestic partners. I told Teresa about the Milwaukee domestic partner registry and she called me back a week later, thrilled that she was able to register her committed relationship, and what’s more, make an appointment to see a doctor for the first time in years.

In December, I had to call Teresa back to warn her that the proposed ban on civil unions and marriage progressing through the Wisconsin legislature could threaten Milwaukee’s domestic partner registry if the amendment passed and a court found that the registry created a legal status too “substantially similar to that of marriage.” She couldn’t understand why her government would try to take away her family’s ability to see a doctor. I find that when Milwaukee-area staff and volunteers get a chance to talk to voters about how far the amendment goes and how it hurts Wisconsin families in their communities, most voters agree with Teresa that we must vote no on discrimination.

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A Fair Wisconsin Votes No
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