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Wisconsin A.G. Under Fire Over Gay Pride Appearanc

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Wisconsin A.G. Under Fire Over Gay Pride Appearance

by The Associated Press

Posted: July 25, 2005 9:00 pm ET

(Madison, Wisconsin) Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager’s remarks at a gay and lesbian pride rally bolsters the argument of those who do not think she will adequately defend the state’s interests in a lawsuit over domestic partner benefits for same-sex couples, a Republican lawmaker contends.

‘‘She clearly has a very significant conflict with defending the state,’’ state Rep. Mark Gundrum of New Berlin said. ‘‘She’s up there on stage with the plaintiffs rallying in support of their cause.’’

Gundrum said that, as a result of Democratic attorney general’s appearance at the July 17 Madison gathering, ‘‘you see clearly why the Legislature and local units of government feel there needs to be other legal representation in this lawsuit.’’

Six lesbians who work for the state filed the lawsuit in April along with their domestic partners with help from the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin. (story) The employees are asking for employment benefits such as health insurance to be extended to their partners by the state.

The attorney general took the stage after speeches by Larry Dupuis, legal director for the ACLU of Wisconsin, and Megan Sapnar and Ingrid Ankerson, two of the plaintiffs in the case.

Lautenschlager said her appearance at the rally was ‘‘absolutely appropriate,’’ and that she is able to separate her personal feelings about an issue from her duties. She said her personal beliefs about civil rights for gays and lesbians do not influence her professional responsibilities.

Suggestions that she can’t do that are overly political and restricted to the issue of same-sex marriage, she added.

‘‘What my point of view is on those cases - my personal point of view or political point of view -is often diametrically opposed to the position we take as a department,’’ Lautenschlager said. ‘‘That’s what lawyers do.’’

Scott Willems, co-president of Madison Pride, said Lautenschlager and the ACLU were invited to speak at the rally before the lawsuit was filed.

The attorney general said she didn’t know the plaintiffs would be on stage at the rally, although she was aware that the ACLU would be represented. She also said her comments were general in nature and did not address the lawsuit or the issues involved.

©Associated Press 2005

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