More on New Jersey
Throughout the past few days, we'e been having intermittent problems with our internet service and with Blogger (the free service that makes this blog possible). Our apologies for not being able to post in a timely manner.
Back to New Jersey just briefly before we carry on with the very huge task ahead of us of turning out thousands of "No" voters on November 7th.
Our opponents will continue to try to blow this up and make it sound like what happens in New Jersey automatically happens in Wisconsin. But from my review of news coverage, the New Jersey story was not a top story in most national news coverage. Yesterday in the office, we did get many calls from Wisconsin reporters wanting to know the impact here, but overally I think this story is receding because most people understand we're having a different debate--about a very far-reaching and harmful proposal to permanently outlaw civil unions and potentially take away existing protections from thousands of families here.
Our opponents want everyone to think this is an abstract debate about judges half a country away, but it's not. This is a debate about people who live here and the way we should treat them. Our Story Project provides a good reminder about the families who are affected by this debate.
That said, many of our supporters are looking for more information about the implications of New Jersey. Because our opponents are working overtime to exaggerate the impact of New Jersey and what it would mean, we pulled together the basic facts and distributed this information yesterday to statewide reporters and editors.
The New Jersey Supreme Court did not legalize marriage for gay couples. What the court ruled is that the state legislature must determine a way to provide equal rights and responsibilities to gay families, whether they call this civil unions, marriage, or something else. Quote from yesterday's decision:
"At this point, the Court does not consider whether committed same-sex couples should be allowed to marry, but only whether those couples are entitled to the same rights and benefits afforded to married heterosexual couples. Cast in that light, the issue is not about the transformation of the traditional definition of marriage, but about the unequal dispensation of benefits and privileges to one of two similarly situated classes of people."Unlike in Wisconsin, New Jersey statutes do not define marriage as between a husband and wife. New Jersey is one of the few states that did not specify gender in its marriage statutes. In fact, the statutes refer generically to couples and "contracting parties." Wisconsin statutes define marriage as between a husband and a wife.
Recent court rulings in states like Washington, Connecticut, and New York rejected marriage for gay couples (and did not directly request that legislatures address the issue). Every state will deal with these matters in its own way.
Unlike courts in New Jersey, Wisconsin courts do not have a long track record of expanding rights for gay people. Generally, the New Jersey courts have used a more rigorous equal protection standard in reviewing discrimination claims. For example, Jersey courts have ruled for joint parenting rights of gay couples. There were critical precedents there that made yesterday's decision much more likely. Meanwhile, in the last two decades Wisconsin courts have ruled against second parent adoption for gay parents and against domestic partner benefits.
Also, Wisconsin judges are not appointed; they must stand for reelection.
As a purely factual matter, it's ridiculous of our opponents to say Wisconsin would go the way of New Jersey, even if there were a civil unions or marriage lawsuit here (there's not).
Let's get back to the debate about the measure on the Nov. 7th ballot in Wisconsin.