May 22, 2005
Category: Domestic Partners
HRC Condemns Appointment of Extremist Group to Represent Wisconsin in Lawsuit
'It's like having the class bully represent the entire student body,' said HRC President Joe Solmonese.
WASHINGTON - The Human Rights Campaign condemned the decision by a committee in the Wisconsin Legislature to appoint the Alliance Defense Fund, a religious-extremist group, as the state's counsel in opposition to a lawsuit that seeks to ensure the partners of state workers get equal health benefits.
"It's like having the class bully represent the entire student body," said HRC President Joe Solmonese. "This group is far from unbiased and the people of Wisconsin did not elect it to speak for them. Wisconsinites did elect the attorney general, who should be the one seeing this case through. The Legislature has seriously overstepped its bounds."
In expressing his discomfort with the selection of the Alliance Defense Fund, Rep. Mark Pocan said in a May 17 statement, "If bringing in fringe extremists who think cartoon characters are gay is the only way to fight providing health care benefits to Wisconsin families, it is a sad day in Wisconsin."
The Alliance Defense Fund has an extensive history of anti-gay actions. Recently, the group was involved in a lawsuit to overturn a voter-enacted domestic partner registry in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. Alliance Defense Fund co-founder James Dobson has attacked SpongeBob
SquarePants for being gay and has called for a "second civil war" in the United States.
According to a May 18 article in The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, lawmakers who pushed this decision "said they weren't confident in the state Department of Justice's ability to represent Wisconsin's interest and protect state dollars."
"Wisconsin's interest is best served with an unbiased, thoughtful assessment regarding equal employment benefits," added Solmonese.
"Employees with same-sex partners are now doing equal work for less compensation. Domestic partner benefits make good business sense. They enhance an employer's overall compensation package with negligible cost to the company and are a hallmark of whether a company values diversity. If the Legislature is hearing from the Alliance Defense Fund, I urge legislators to also hear from companies in the state that have already learned these lessons."
The University of Wisconsin is the only "Big 10" school without domestic partner benefits - putting it at a competitive disadvantage when recruiting faculty. At least 60 major employers in the state already offer these benefits, including: Miller Brewing Company, American Family Insurance Group, Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance and SC Johnson & Son Inc. (For more, see HRC's workplace database.)
Eleven states - California, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington - offer domestic partner health benefits. Through its marriage law, Massachusetts also ensures equal health benefits.