My Final Thoughts

Now that Nov. 7 has passed, so too has Fair Wisconsin, at least as the official political campaign. This Wednesday is the last day of paid work for most of the Fair Wisconsin staff.

A couple of people will stay on until the end of the year to tie up loose ends and to work with our board of directors to figure out what’s next for, well… for all of you. All of us.

I’m sure somewhere in the plans will be a strategy to overturn the amendment. I’m hopeful that day won’t be too far away, but it will take some time. There are two ways to overturn an amendment—either through legal action or by going through the same process we just endured: passage through both houses of the legislature in two consecutive sessions, and then by a simple majority of the public. Either way, overturning it will be costly, emotional, and eventually, successful.

We’ll leave the blog up, but it’s likely this will be the last post. The Fair Wisconsin website will sit for a while before eventually going down.

While Fair Wisconsin’s mission was not to achieve equal rights for LGBT people, I know ultimately, that’s what many of you are working for. Obviously, we’re left with a big “to do” list. In addition to marriage equality, there is a lot to accomplish for the LGBT community— domestic partner health benefits, second-parent adoption, non-discrimination policies for all LGBT people, and even just general acceptance of LGBT people.

Most communities around the state have some sort of LGBT organization that provides support and a voice for LGBT people, whether it’s a local PFLAG chapter, a group like northeastern Wisconsin's Positive Voice, or an LGBT community center like those in Madison, La Crosse, Milwaukee, or the Chippewa Valley. The Action Wisconsin Education Fund’s website lists several other organizations both locally and nationally. I hope that you continue to work in your community, toward your vision of a fair Wisconsin.

I was as sad, angry, and hurt as all of you on Tuesday night. I still am. Probably part of me will always be. I feel betrayed by the people of my home state, and I feel personally attacked. But quite honestly (I’m not just saying this to try to make you feel better) I also feel hopeful.

The work we did leading up to the election started to reveal the lives of gay and lesbian families to Wisconsin. In telling our stories and in showing how the denial of marriage hurts our families, we nudged the conversation in the right direction.

The timing of this amendment is hugely unfortunate. But the silver lining is that in this election cycle we showed that using gay and lesbian families as political pawns doesn’t work. I think we’ll see an end to the introduction of these initiatives.

So what’s next for me? I’m not entirely certain. For now, I’m slowly remembering all of the things I used to enjoy… reading, working on my house, making art, playing with my dog, going out of town for the weekend, spending time with Megan. It feels good to have these things back. I will put together my portfolio, look for a graphic design job with DP benefits, replace a toilet, keep trying to start a family, get an estimate on a new roof, visit my parents and brothers in Green Bay for Thanksgiving.

And then, with the rest of you, I will continue to volunteer, talk with people, and help elect officials who have my best interest in mind. Working on this campaign has changed my life. It made me realize, in a very tangible way, the organization, the individuals, the hours, and the piles of energy it takes to effect change. There were thousands and thousands of you working with me the four days before the election. We didn’t win, but we were out in force, and that felt amazing, and that felt like a movement.

Especially in that final push, you were working for my future, and I was working for yours. Whatever happens next, I trust we’ll all work together just as hard and with just as much passion. And for that, I am exceptionally proud, optimistic, and above all, thankful.

Another Amendment?

Just days after Wisconsin voters approved a constitutional ban on same-sex marriages, state Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, is drafting a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would ban discrimination and open the way for state-sanctioned civil unions."
So writes Judy Davidoff in the Nov. 11 Capital Times.

Read the full story here.

Two Days Later...

I know many of you are wondering what's next and want to understand better what has taken place, so I wanted to offer at least a brief update.

I personally am just beginning to reflect on what happened after a day of putting aside my own feelings and responding to media inquiries. Around the office, our staff is also just beginning to reflect on what we accomplished and what we ultimately could not accomplish. We also have huge piles of paper, food, and other debris scattered across our 10 offices. Today we're focusing on cleaning up and beginning to close our out-state offices.

The organizations who formed Fair Wisconsin, Action Wisconsin and Center Advocates, will take the next several weeks to assess the campaign, seek input from our supporters, and begin to lay plans for the next steps. We remain fully committed to fairness and equality for all LGBT Wisconsinites and our families. We are hoping that our statewide supporters will continue to work with us as we forge ahead.

Details about election results are still emerging, but here is some information we have so far.

Although we didn't win, it's clear Fair Wisconsin's get out the vote operation had a significant impact on elections statewide, even according to conservative U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner. From today's Spivak & Bice column in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

It sounded like a good idea at the time.

Get the proposed same-sex marriage constitutional amendment on the November ballot to drive up the Republican vote while driving Democrats out of office. The plan worked for President Bush two years ago, particularly in Ohio. So why wouldn't it do the same in Wisconsin this year, the GOP brass reasoned.

Welcome to the real world.

"The timing ended up backfiring," said U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, a Menomonee Falls Republican. "I think the opposite worked out this time."


But the measure clearly had an unintended consequence by sparking a larger-than-expected turnout, especially among left-leaning college students, who flooded their campus polling places.

The result: Dems scored some unexpected gains in the Statehouse.


In the Assembly, Republicans lost as many as eight seats, reducing the GOP's once formidable control of the house to what now appears to be a 52-47 margin. Five of the new Democratic legislators were elected in districts that include University of Wisconsin campuses. Among those expelled was Colleges and Universities Chairman Rob Kreibich, who represents UW-Eau Claire.

Democrats gained control of the Senate by knocking out four Republicans, including longtime Sen. David Zien, who also represents UW-Eau Claire.

If you can win by losing, score one for Fair Wisconsin, the well-funded grass-roots group that led the unsuccessful fight against the amendment. In his victory speech, Gov. Jim Doyle, who scored his own impressive seven-point victory over U. S. Rep. Mark Green, also put a spotlight on the group, thanking it for its efforts.

Even Republican honchos begrudgingly credited Fair Wisconsin Wednesday for a strong get-out-the-vote effort that helped Democrats up and down the ticket.

Just how surprised were the GOP bosses by the turnout?

Before the election, their data concluded that Green needed 940,000 votes to unseat Doyle. In the end, Green topped that goal by 36,000 votes, yet he will soon be out of work.

"Usually, if you exceed your vote goal," said Republican Party executive director Rick Wiley, "you win."

So much for conventional wisdom.

The turnout was most impressive on college campuses

Overall, two counties had majority "no" votes: Dane County and La Crosse County. We don't yet have the breakdown by city, but here's a list of the counties with the highest percentages of "no" votes:
Dane - 67%
La Crosse - 50%
Iowa - 49%
Portage - 48%
Eau Claire - 48%
Menominee - 47%
Green - 46%
Milwaukee - 45%
Rock - 44%
Sauk - 43%
Winnebago -42%
Bayfield - 42%
Dunn - 41%
Oneida - 41%
Kenosha - 41%
Door - 41%

Election Night Remarks

We wanted to share something as soon as possible about tonight's results. Here's a rough draft (typos included) of the speech Mike gave tonight.


My friends, tonight we came up short in our struggle.

So many of you gave everything you had.

You pounded the pavements.

You emptied your wallets.

You forced yourselves to go up to the doors of strangers and ask them how they feel about something many of them had never discussed so openly before.

Many of you came out to more people than you wanted to because you knew telling your personal story was one of the best ways to change people’s minds.

Some of you have been giving this your all for almost three entire years. And many of us have made many personal sacrifices to make this campaign a top priority.

What I am most proud of most of all is how all of us dared to hope.

And we must not lose this hope and we cannot ignore what we have accomplished.

Because despite the results I still believe in a fair Wisconsin. I refuse to stop believing.

This debate was forced on us at a time and a place not of our choosing.

This fight against the amendment was never just about what happened today. All of us committed to a long-term struggle for equality and fairness for everyone. We cannot give up on Wisconsin, and there’s good reason not to.

We know for certain that many of the same people who voted for this amendment today are the very same people who will support equality for gay families within the next 5 or 10 years. That change might not have been on the timeline forced on us by our opponents, but we cannot ignore the fact that we have laid the foundation for long-term change in Wisconsin. Because of our work, more people in this state than ever before understand that gay families exist in this state and discrimination hurts them.

We may not have won the election, but there were so many victories along the way. We achieved many things that have drastically altered attitudes about gay people, gay families, and the way we do politics around this issue. We transformed a “gay rights” issue and made it a Wisconsin issue.

Our accomplishments are not in vain.

Two and a half years ago, it was unfathomable to most people, including myself, that we could wage a strong fight against the ban.

People said we couldn’t raise enough money. But we raised over $5 million from over 12,000 people to help us communicate with the people of this state.

People said we couldn’t recruit the volunteers necessary, but over 10,000 of you exploded that myth from day one.

They said elected leaders wouldn’t stand with us, and if they did, voters would reject them. But our leaders challenged that notion in fact, leaders like Gov. Doyle never wavered in his opposition to the amendment whether at a UAW rally or editorial board meetings in Baraboo.

Again and again, we proved the cynics wrong.

I know we have changed something fundamental because I saw it unfold in our offices every week of this campaign.

When I saw a standing-room only crowd of Fair Wisconsin supporters sitting in a church basement in Wausau back in March, I knew we were making change.

When I saw an ironworker stop by our office to take literature back to his local labor union because they had taken a position against the amendment, I knew we were making change.

When I saw clergy in their collars in Appleton explaining why the teachings of Jesus compel them to speak out, I knew were making change.

When I saw business leaders move from expressing private concerns to issuing press releases, I knew we were making change.

We set a high bar for ourselves and met it. This changed our campaign but it also changed the way people view gay families and gay issues in this state.

We transformed this so-called wedge issue into an issue that united Wisconsinites of all backrounds. We have made equality and fairness for gay Wisconsinites something that is embraced by many organizations, leaders, and average citizens.

Thank you to the thousands of gay and lesbian people who did not ask for this fight, who did not want to become poster children. You chose to interrupt your lives so that one day our children will know a world without discrimination.

You bravely stepped up to put your lives on display.

Thank you to all of you who like me aren’t gay but made this issue your own. Thousands of you refused to stand by silently while your friends, families, and citizens we will never meet were attacked with this amendment.

Together, all of us stood shoulder to shoulder—grandmothers, farmers, ministers, school teachers, and many, many more of us from all walks of life.

And although we didn’t win we ran a historic effort that changed Wisconsin.

It's E-Day!

It's time. If you've already voted, most likely you're helping us get the rest of the "No" voters to the polls. Thank you.

If you haven't voted, most polls are open from 7am - 8pm. If you have questions about how to vote, where your polling place is, or what you need to register to vote, visit our voting guide or visit Wisconsin's State Elections Board website.

It's going to be a tight race and we need absolutely every single "No" vote we can get.

This blog will probably be pretty quiet today. But tonight, we'll be making a lot of noise, and you're welcome to join us at our Election Party. In Madison, we'll be at the Monona Terrace from 8:15-midnight, and in Milwaukee we'll be at M's 1101 S. 2nd St., in Walker's Point.

Justin's Grandpa is Voting No

Remember back in April, when Justin sat down with his grandpa to talk about the civil unions and marriage ban? At the time, his grandpa said he'd be voting for it:
I know you’ve been wrestling with your position on the civil unions and marriage ban. How would you vote if the vote were today?
I would vote yes to ban same-sex marriage. I am concerned about what same-sex marriage would do to the institution of marriage. Would it water it down or have a deleterious effect? I just don’t know.
But after months of thinking about it and after reading this guest editorial in the Appleton Post Crescent by Rev. John McFadden, he called Justin to say he'd be voting "No."

Not only that, but he even started talking to his friends about why he's voting "No." He's asking them to do the same or, if they're undecided, to leave the question blank.

A Slice of the GOTV Scene

This weekend thousands of you joined our GOTV push and knocked on well over 60,000 doors. Today and tomorrow, we have even more people signed up. Here are some scenes from the activities in Madison...

In 36 Hours

Every year, just before my birthday, I get what I call “the birthday blues.” I find myself in a bit of a funk— never particularly sad or upset— but it’s a time I like to withdraw and ruminate about the year past, the year coming.

Emotionally, the past few weeks have been the equivalent of the birthday blues on overdrive. I can hardly start to think about the things that have happened over the last year, and I certainly can’t begin to imagine where the next year will take me, or you, or any of us.

With the birthday blues I usually have the luxury of wallowing in my thoughts over days, lunches, and long walks. But the thing about working on this campaign is I haven’t really had time to think about anything. It’s just do, do, do. I relish the gasps of time I have to myself (walking to work, waiting for blogger to load photographs, the occasional moment I get out of my chair to stare onto State Street) and wonder how I will feel a day after the election. How I will feel in a week. A year.

This campaign, as much as I both love and hate every moment of it, has turned into something almost… well, human. It is this beastly friend I keep wishing would die, but when it inevitably does, I’ll be quite sad. I’ll even miss it. I almost don’t want it to be gone.

But in 36 hours it will be.

All I know right now is that we have the ingredients to win. I spent the last two days at Warner Park greeting GOTV volunteer after volunteer after volunteer. In a few minutes I'll go back again to help with today's shifts. Every single person who volunteers has their own reason for advocating a "No" vote. All over the state from Eau Claire to Green Bay, from Wausau to Milwaukee, people are coming together to put their all into these final hours to defeat the ban.

You know what? I think we'll do it. And I'll have plenty of time to ruminate after we do.

A great day for a walk ...

It's 11am on Sunday, and in a few hours, my friend Sandee and I will return to the streets to continue our GOTV canvass. Yesterday, between us we went to roughly 250 homes.

We had a ball. Sandee and I have canvassed together, oh, about 15 times so far, but GOTV is the dessert we've been waiting for. This is when we talk with people who have already identified themselves as voting no. We inform them of the address of their polling station, remind them to turn the ballot over (in Dane County), and ask if they need a ride to the polls.

People thanks us - often profusely. A fair number of people tell us they have already voted no. Some people thank us for providing the address of their polling station. Some thank us for reminding them that the vote is this coming Tuesday.

We had so much fun yesterday we recruited two more people to help us today - my partner, and one of his work colleagues.

If you haven't signed up yet, this is the time you're needed most. Sign up. You won't regret it. It's a beautiful sunny day. Join us. There is still a shift this afternoon and several shifts all day tomorrow, all over the state.

It's GOTV Time!!!

Hey Everybody,

The blog may be a little quiet this weekend because we have all hands on deck out on the streets. I'm in Madison today and just drove around to all of our different staging sites to check things out. We've probaly already sent out over 100 people just this morning in Madison alone.

We are getting great reports from all our GOTV sites around the state too. If you havent signed up yet its not to late, visit and sign up to help us defeat the ban!

I love GOTV weekend, its the most exciting part of a campaign. I hope you will join the thousands of other people knocking on doors and making phone calls helping us remind our voters to get out and vote NO! This is the most important phase of the campaign and it will help guarantee our victory on Tuesday.

3 days to victory!!!!!!!

A House Divided

State Representative Steve Freese was one of the sponsors of the civil unions and marriage ban. Over the last two years, I traveled to his office twice, and met with him in his district to urge him to drop his support of the ban. Frankly, I found him callous and uncaring about his gay and lesbian constituents.

By chance, I’ve had occasion to meet and talk with his wife several times during this same period. I always found her delightful and personable.

This week, Dawn Freese wrote a letter to the Platteville Exponent explaining why she thinks her husband is wrong:

“Many important points have been argued in print lately about the Gay Marriage Amendment. However, I am frustrated with the fact that perhaps the most important issue involved has not been given any ink. Therefore, in spite of the fact that my own husband co-sponsored the proposed amendment, I would like to voice the main reason why I intend to vote no on Nov. 7.

The proposed amendment to Wisconsin’s constitution would limit the civil rights of a specific group of citizens. Think about this one hard, folks. This is no small thing. If you think it is, consult the Federalist Papers and the history of constitutional amendments. The U.S. Constitution, which our state constitutions are supposed to uphold and be modeled after, was intended to be amended rarely and prudently.

Amendments weren’t made to satisfy specific political agendas, but to protect our citizens’ rights and the integrity of the Constitution. The first 10 amendments, The Bill of Rights, expanded basic civil rights to all citizens. History proves the reverence Americans have held for our government’s framework and the civil rights it guarantees. When our founders first framed the Constitution, the only citizens who were allowed to vote were propertied white men. Since that time, Americans have amended the document to give non-property owners, black Americans, women and American Indians the right to vote. As our nation has grown, the Constitution has grown to reflect our expanding notion of civil liberty.

In sharp contrast to that tradition, some are proposing to amend our state’s constitution to limit the civil rights of a specific group that they deem to be not worthy. This fact should be alarming to all who love freedom.

I am alarmed enough to speak out and vote no.”

Dawn Freese

Tell Your Friends

Hopefully all of you are having conversations and writing letters to your friends and family about what's on this November's ballot. Telling people why you personally care about defeating the ban is the best way to influence votes.

Corinne Rosen
recently wrote this great letter to the people she knows:


Hello everyone! Since June I have been working up to fourteen hour days, seven days a week to help educate people and defeat the ban on civil unions and marriage.

I am investing much time and energy in to this issue because I am passionate about keeping this anti-family initiative out of our Wisconsin state Constitution. I believe that this ban is bad for Wisconsin. To try to write into the constitution that unmarried couples and same sex couples should not have any protections for their families is wrong. And that's exactly what the second sentence does by threatening healthcare, pensions, and any legal contract two unmarried individuals would have with each other.

It was not long ago when African-Americans were treated as second class citizens under the law. African-Americans were denied the right to vote, live in certain places, attend certain schools, and there was even a time when African-Americans were not allowed to marry each other. This is why the jumping off the broom ceremony was created. There was also a time when women were treated as second class citizens under the law. Women were originally considered property of their husbands once they were married, they were not allowed to vote, work certain jobs, go to certain schools, and play sports.

I have certainly benefitted from equal protection under the law. As many of you know my mother is black and my father is white. When my mother was 17, it was still illegal in certain states for her and my father to marry; until it was decided in the courts that although some people may not agree with people of different races marrying it was not up to the government to discriminate against those people. I was able to go to school with children from all different races and backgrounds because in 1954 when my mother was four years old the Supreme Court decided that separate was not equal. When I applied to college, I applied where I wanted to without the fear of being discriminated against.

I have had an extensive hockey career. I have played hockey at every level. I've played house league, travel, college, semi-pro, and internationally, but all of this too was because in 1972 Title IX was passed. It said that no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, shall be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subject to discrimination under any educational programs or activity receiving federal financial aid.

I became the first girl to play hockey at Pius XI High School because the athletic director had to let me play because of Title IX... Three years ago I coached with the Wisconsin Wild--to see the opportunity that the parents of that program have built for so many girls is amazing. For the past two years, I have coached the University High School Hockey team-- one of the first female high school teams in the state. Last year the team finally got a state-of-the-art locker room like the boys' because parents said that they wanted equal facilities for their daughters.

So when I heard that they were trying to write discrimination into the constitution by saying that, "Marriage is between one man and one woman. A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized in this state."

I was very upset... To say that we do not agree with unmarried couples living together and raising a family or gay couples living together and raising a family is okay. Most of us have very strong opinions about these living arrangements. But to write that into the constitution is not okay. To say that unmarried couples and same sex couples and their families can not have any of the protections for their families that my mother and father had when I was born is discriminatory and bigoted...

I have benefitted from many people fighting for my rights before I was around. When people said it was wrong to deny marriage which gives protections to families to people of different races they were fighting for me. When people fought to get equal educational opportunities for children of all races they were fighting for me. When people fought to allow women the right to participate in all educational opportunities including sports they were also fighting for me.

Now instead of fighting for rights people are trying to take away protections for unmarried couples and their families and I am fighting to protect them. All unmarried couples should be able to keep the few protections that they have for their families like being able to share health insurance and the right to make a will( which is "a legal document that could be considered similar to marriage")

I am working for Fair Wisconsin because I know that we can stop this nonsense of trying to write discrimination into the constitution and change the course of history. I also know that stopping this here in Wisconsin, a Midwestern, battleground state means that we will shape the political landscape in this country. It will be a victory for everyone who lives in the state of Wisconsin

This campaign is one of the best things I've been a part of. We have a staff of 50 in all corners of the state who canvass, phone bank, raise money and work 16 hours a day. We have over 10,000 volunteers, people who work hard to ensure that every voter in Wisconsin hears our message. We have been on television for 15 weeks. We will cross the finish line in 14 days and I know that all of these things will come together to ensure we win on November 7th.

I urge everyone to show up at the polls and VOTE NO on November 7th to keep protections that are in place right now for families. Keep this anti-family amendment out of the constitution and let's continue our tradition of moving forward in Wisconsin by VOTING NO and stopping us from going back to the days when we as a state accepted discrimination...

It is important to show up at the polls and vote no but it is equally as important to help turn up NO voters at the polls in the last few days before the election. This is one opportunity to truly make a big difference and stand up for the things we care about. Remember that you have the rest of your life to go to work, school, or hang out with friends... You only have one chance to make history... On November 7th take off from whatever it is your doing and Change History by helping Wisconsin be the first state to defeat this amendment...

A Fair Wisconsin Votes No
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