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ACLU sues over Wisconsin's refusal to offer DP benefits

ACLU sues over Wisconsin's refusal to offer DP benefits

Six lesbian state employees in Wisconsin, backed by the American Civil Liberties Union, went to court on Wednesday, saying the state's refusal to provide health insurance for their domestic partners violates the Wisconsin constitution. The lawsuit seeks the same health insurance and family leave benefits provided to spouses of married employees for all gay state employees in domestic partnerships. The lawsuit, filed Wednesday morning in Dane County circuit court, claims that administrative rules excluding gay partners of state employees from qualifying for health benefits violate the equal-rights protection clause of the state constitution. The clause guarantees that people in similar situations should be treated the same. "It is unfair that these people who work as hard as their neighbor in the next cubicle, the teacher in the next classroom, are not able to share in the kind of benefits that their coworkers share in," said Larry Dupuis, legal director of ACLU of Wisconsin. The six workers are from around the state and employed by the University of Wisconsin System, the Department of Corrections, and the Department of Transportation. Those agencies and the Department of Employee Trust Funds, which administers state health insurance programs, are named as defendants in the lawsuit. The office of Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager is expected to defend the case. A spokesman for Lautenschlager, a champion of gay rights, said the case "will be reviewed for a timely and appropriate response." The lawsuit is the latest salvo in a battle over gay rights in Wisconsin, once considered a pioneer for the gay rights movement after passing the first law prohibiting discrimination against gays. Julaine K. Appling, executive director of the Wisconsin Coalition for Traditional Marriage, immediately criticized the lawsuit, saying it will open up arguments for gay marriage and could result in unmarried heterosexual couples getting the same benefits. "Why are we singling out six sets of women homosexuals to make them the plaintiffs in this high-profile case? It looks like to me it's more about special rights than equal rights," she said. "This is not about fairness. This is about special rights for a select group of people." (AP)

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