The law is, mainly, that a same-sex couple has the same right to housing in Wisconsin as any other couple, and sexual orientation is not our business. This has been the law for many years, though it might now be the subject of confusion, for several reasons.
First, the news is full of information regarding the U.S. Supreme Court ruling which upheld the dignity and enforceability of legal, same-sex marriages. In New York, such marriages are legal, so the Court ruled that the federal government must honor them. But in Wisconsin, a famous (or infamous) constitutional amendment in 2006 outlawed same-sex marriages. So the U.S. Supreme Court ruling does not apply directly in Wisconsin, because our state outlawed same-sex marriages. Meanwhile, our state Supreme Court is considering the legality of the Domestic Partnership Registry and predicting the outcome of that case is perilous.
A second reason for confusion is that Wisconsin law allows associations, within reason, to regulate the use and enjoyment of their condominium communities. Frequently, occupancy is limited to a single family, and poorly drafted restrictions either fail to define “family” or define it too restrictively (excluding not only same-sex couples, but all unmarried partners.)
Here is a simple answer on how to handle this issue: Wisconsin’s Open Housing Law requires “an equal opportunity for housing regardless of sex, race, color, sexual orientation, disability, religion, national origin, marital status, family status…”and several other categories. Section 106.50, Wis. Stats.
Note that restricting occupancy because of who someone is is not the same as prohibiting offensive behavior. Thus, noise, hygiene, safety and architectural harmony are common areas of regulation in multi-family housing. But defining a person based on status -- who he or she is -- is problematic.
A rule which prohibits same-sex occupancy (sexual orientation) would violate the law, and besides, it’s none of our business.
Oops. I made a mistake on the address of our next Condo College® Here is the corrected info, which I also corrected in the recent blog announcement. Please see that blog for further information.
Milwaukee Public Market
400 North Water Street
Milwaukee, WI 53202
Second Floor (Madame Kuony’s Kitchen.)