The Wisconsin Supreme Court decided Thursday, Feb. 7, that municipalities had no right to interfere in a lawsuit brought by lesbian state employees seeking health insurance for their domestic partners.
The six lesbian couples, who have been without health insurance for their families while the issue has been litigated, can now move forward with their suit claiming it is unconstitutional for the state to not offer their partners the same compensation as the spouses of heterosexual employees.
“We are relieved that our clients will finally have their opportunity to prove to the courts the unfairness of denying lesbian and gay state employees access to much needed health insurance for their families,” said Chris Ahmuty, executive director of the ACLU of Wisconsin. “They work just as hard as their straight colleagues and shouldn’t be denied the same pay package.”
The Wisconsin Supreme Court issued a 4-to-3 decision Thursday rejecting claims by municipalities seeking to enter the lawsuit under claims that they may be affected by the ultimate outcome in the case.
“The municipalities have shown no special, personal or unique interest in the present case,” the court said. “Were the municipalities granted a right to intervene upon such grounds, virtually any declaratory action for constitutional review of a statute would present a case in which at least some persons or entities may intervene as of right .”
Larry Dupuis, legal director of the ACLU of Wisconsin and one of the lawyers for the couples, said the court’s decision was a relief.
“The municipalities don’t have a direct stake in this case about state benefits, since our clients have never sought any kind of relief from them,” Dupuis said. “As has long been clear, the municipalities can explain their views of the legal issues by filing a brief with the court.”
The ACLU filed the lawsuit in April 2005 on behalf of six lesbian state employees and their partners.
The lawsuit charges that it is a violation of the state’s equal protection guarantees to deny lesbian and gay state employees access to the same health insurance and family leave protections that it provides to straight employees who are able to cover their spouses.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 8, 2008