La Crosse Tribune Against the Ban

Yesterday's La Crosse Tribune featured a strong editorial against the civil unions and marriage ban.

Under the banner, “Ban will take away rights — and not only for gays,” the paper told its readers:
The first sentence is just unnecessary. Wisconsin statutes already define “marriage” as between a man and a woman. The second sentence, though, is just unnecessarily cruel. What it does is forever rule out the possibility of any legal status short of marriage that would allow gay couples the same rights as married couples.

Those include being able to take advantage of a partner’s health insurance, Social Security or any other benefit. Under this constitutional amendment, it would be more difficult for gay couples to deal with family opposition to the relationship if one of the partners was hospitalized and hospital visitation was an issue.

This amendment already passed in the last legislative session. The Senate approved it earlier in this session. So Tuesday’s action in the Assembly assures that this amendment will go to the voters in November.

If voters approve it, the constitution will be changed and the rights of gay individuals and couples will remain abridged.

The vote was pretty much what you would expect, but there were a couple of surprises.

All but one Republican voted for it. But the lone Republican dissenter, former La Crosse resident Greg Underheim, who represents an Assembly district in Oshkosh, gave a particularly eloquent speech against it.

“In virtually no other area do constitutions prohibit private individuals from engaging in an activity,” he said. “We are taking a document which has protected people from their government and saying ‘we’re changing the character of the document.’”

Most Democrats voted against it, with six voting for it. A few who had supported it in the first round opposed it this time.

One of them was Rep. Barbara Gronemus of Whitehall, Wis. She said the change to the Constitution could adversely affect all unmarried couples, not just gay couples.

“It could mean the loss of health benefits for many individuals and families,” she said, “including many unmarried senior citizens in committed relationships. Every morning, we say the Pledge of Allegiance. We say that there is ‘liberty and justice for all.’ Does that really mean anything to us?”

Throughout the debate, the comment that offended me the most was made by Rick Wiley, executive director of the Republican Party of Wisconsin, who said the presence of the amendment on the November ballot will help Republican candidates win elections.

Make no mistake: This action will hurt people. It might even hurt people you know.

I don’t think electing partisans of any stripe is a good enough reason to deprive people of rights.


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