Battle Over Benefits: ACLU, Domestic Partners Sue the State

By: Natalie Swaby
By: Natalie Swaby

Ingrid Ankerson and Megan Sapnar have joined five other couples in a fight against a Wisconsin policy for state employees that does not provide full health benefits to domestic partners.

"If I broke a bone or I needed an ambulance those are the sorts of things that I have to pay out of pocket," explains Ankerson.

She works for a start up company without coverage, while her partner, Sapnar, is a teaching assistant with full benefits at the University of Wisconsin.

"I think what really started to make us think, 'when is this going to change,' is when other big ten schools are starting to change their policies, and it just doesn't make since when we're in this situation when this isn't the norm, this isn't what is happening at other universities," says Sapnar.

And that does concern some University administrators.

UW Provost Peter Spear says, "we've tried to recruit outstanding world class faculty who did not want to come here because we do not offer domestic partners benefits."

But in this benefits battle there are opponents. Julaine Appling of the Family Research Institute has read through the complaint and disagrees.

"I don't see that commitment, or some kind of a church so called marriage, that has never had the stamp of legality on it makes them eligible for benefits that have been restricted for good reason to people in state recognized marriages," tells Appling.

In the case of this couple they had a commitment ceremony, own a house together, and think they should get the same benefits as married couples.

"I think that it needs to be confronted and people do need to deal with it. I think it is about an issue of fairness and there is a real inequality here," states Sapnar.

Sapnar and others in this lawsuit say getting the same benefits as married couples is their state constitutional right under the equal protection guarantee. The American Civil Liberties Union filed the complaint against several state agencies this morning in Dane County Circuit Court. The Family Research Institute of Wisconsin and other critics wants this matter to go through the legislature instead of through a lawsuit.

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