Ballot Question & Explanation

Last week Wisconsin's Department of Justice provided the State Elections Board with language that will appear on the November ballot (pdf).

This is the question we will be answering:
Shall section 13 of article XIII of the constitution be created to provide that only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state and that a legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized in this state?
Note that while the amendment would add two sentences to the state constitution, this question is only one sentence long.

And this is the official explanation for voters:
Under present Wisconsin law, only a marriage between a husband and a wife is recognized as valid in this state. A husband is commonly defined as a man who is married to a woman, and a wife is commonly defined as a woman who is married to a man.

A "yes" vote would make the existing restriction on marriage as a union between a man and a woman part of the state constitution, and would prohibit any recognition of the validity of a marriage between persons other than one man and one woman.

A "yes" vote would also prohibit recognition of any legal status which is identical or substantially similar to marriage for unmarried persons of either the same sex or different sexes.

The constitution would not further specify what is, or what is not, a legal status identical or substantially similar to marriage. Whether any particular type of domestic relationship, partnership or agreement between unmarried persons would be prohibited by this amendment would be left to further legislative or judicial determination.

A "no" vote would not change the present law restricting marriage to a union between a man and a woman nor impose restrictions on any particular kind of domestic relationship, partnership or agreement between unmarried persons.
Our opponents, the Vote Yes for Marriage campaign, issued a press release (pdf) saying that they are "encouraged by her [Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager's] explanation of the ballot language."

We also think it presents a reasonable, fair explanation.



At 3:30 PM, Blogger Jenn said...

I visited the "Vote Yes for Marriage website just to compare notes. I found it interesting that:

-In the homepage banner they've misspelled the word "marriage"; and

-In the "In the News" section they've simply listed press releases by Julaine Appling. Contrary to popular belief, listening to yourself talk does not make it news, Ms. Appling.

Another startling discovery was Ms. Appling's interpretation of Attorney General Lautenschlager's explanation. Ms. Appling says:

"Wisconsin Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager’s official “explanation” of the upcoming ballot initiative regarding Wisconsin’s proposed Marriage Protection Amendment makes it clear that the amendment does not “ban” or threaten existing or even future benefit arrangements for unmarried Wisconsin couples."

It doesn't? Are you sure?

At 7:32 PM, Anonymous Keith said...

I remember reading a much simpler explanation last week. It was something like "Wisc law current defines marriage etc, the amendment would put that in the constitution. It would also ban any MARRIAGE, CIVIL UNION, OR OTHER CONTRACT that is substantially similar.

I also read that the FRI was upset with this explanation.

Did the AG change her mind an re-write the explanation?

Or am I confusing apples and oranges?

At 7:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Keith, Perhaps you read a simpler version in a newspaper summary of the AG's explanation.

But you're not the confused one. Julaine is. At first she hated the explanation and told reporters so. Then, midstream, she up and decided she loves the explanation.

Go figure.

At 12:17 PM, Anonymous Joey said...

I'm concerned that, for the general public, this language is no less confusing than that used in the amendment itself. For the purposes of explaining to all voters what the amendment means, this explaination needs to be written at an elementary reading level. This is not because voters are unintelligent, but because reading skills in the general population of adults fall largely at the fourth and fifth grade levels.

At 8:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agreed with joey. The explanation (at least the fourth paragraph) may be just as confusing as the wording as the amendment itself. Regarding the Vote Yes response.. interesting to note that there is no mention of benefits in any part of the Attorney General's explanation. Just because they're not mentioned, doesn't mean that they are not affected by the ban.


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