ACLU Urges Wisconsin Supreme Court to Bar Municipalities from Becoming Parties to Lawsuit Seeking Domestic Partner Health Insurance
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Adding Municipalities Will Cause Additional Delay for Families in Need of Insurance
MADISON, WI – In an appearance before the Wisconsin Supreme Court today, the American Civil Liberties Union urged the court to deny requests from a number of municipalities to become parties to a lawsuit seeking domestic partner benefits for lesbian and gay employees of the state. The ACLU explained that there is no reason to allow the municipalities to become parties to the lawsuit, which is already being vigorously defended by the state’s attorney general.
Although studies have consistently shown that the costs of providing domestic partner health insurance is less than .5% of health care costs, the municipalities have asked to become a party to the lawsuit because they claim they would incur additional expenses if the court rules that it is unconstitutional to bar lesbian and gay state employees from access to the same benefits as their straight co-workers.
“The lawyers behind this move have already stalled this litigation for over two years, barring the many families who need access to health insurance from having their say in court,” said John Knight, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Project who argued before the court today. “This maneuver isn’t about the nominal costs of providing domestic partner health insurance as they have claimed. It’s a stop-at-nothing attempt to deny hard working lesbian and gay employees from access to the same health insurance and family leave coverage that their straight co-workers enjoy.”
Allowing the municipalities into the suit would create a dangerous precedent that would cripple the justice system if municipalities are allowed into litigation any time the state is involved in litigation that might marginally affect municipalities sometime down the road. The ACLU also pointed out that the municipalities are free to voice their concerns by filing friend-of-the-court briefs at each stage of the litigation.
“We are hopeful after today’s argument that the court will tell these municipalities that they have no business pushing themselves in our lawsuit so they can further delay justice for our clients,” said Chris Ahmuty, Executive Director of the ACLU of Wisconsin. “We are looking forward to the day when the courts are focused on the merits of this case and we can show how unfair it is for the state to deny its lesbian and gay employees equal employment benefits.”
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.
Additional information about the case, including information about the costs of providing domestic partner health insurance, biographical information about the clients who are being denied adequate health insurance, as well as a copy of the ACLU’s brief opposing intervention by the legislature are available by clicking Helgeland v. Wisconsin at www.aclu.org/caseprofiles.
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