HRC Condemns Appointment Of Extremist Group To Represent Wisconsin In Lawsuit

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" 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, SC Johnson & Son
Inc. (For more, see HRC's workplace database: www.hrc.org/worknet.)

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.

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