Domestic partnerships in Wisconsin:

Today the governor signed a biennial budget bill that includes limited but important protections and rights for registered same-sex domestic partners.

Wisconsin is the first state in the Midwest to grant recognition to gay families by legislative action. Iowa has marriage by state supreme court decision. So far, there's no recognition or legal protection for gay families as such in neighboring Illinois (where the state government is unusually dysfunctional) or in Minnesota (where the governor vetoed even a bill limited to hospital visitation).

Wisconsin is also the first state with a constitutional amendment banning SSM and civil unions to create a domestic partnership status for same-sex couples. A state legislative committee concluded that the bill does not violate the state amendment, passed by voters in November 2006, limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples and barring any status "identical or substantially similar to that of marriage" for unmarried couples.

That seems right. The Wisconsin law gives domestic partners about 40 rights (out of the more than 1,000 rights given to married couples), including the rights to visit a partner in the hospital, to take leave to care for a sick/dying partner, and to inherit a partner's property intestate. Thus begins a process by which state legislatures around the country will be testing the reach of some of the recent state constitutional amendments banning SSM and civil unions.