The Sunday Papers Buzz With "Vote No" Talk
In strong and passionate terms, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel urges a no vote on the amendment in today's paper. Here's the full editorial:
Editorial: Overly broad, dangerous, unfair and simply unnecessaryUp in Oshkosh, The Northwestern also weighs in against the amendment:
A state constitutional amendment to define marriage as solely between a man and a woman is wholly unnecessary. Marriage, under current
Wisconsin law, is already defined as between a husband and a wife.
But this amendment, as worded, is not just harmlessly unnecessary; it's dangerous. The pernicious potential of this amendment is to undo protections, current and future, provided to both unmarried homosexual and heterosexual couples.
Understand, even if the proposed amendment had stopped at simply trying to define marriage as between a man and a woman, we would urge a "no" vote. The constitution is no place to tackle problems that don't exist. If the institution of marriage is under duress, it is not from gays.
The amendment starts out, "Only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state." It adds, "A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized in this state."
This second sentence does not specify gay "unmarried individuals." We would object even if it did.
We have not advocated gay "marriage." We have, however, suggested civil unions as a means to provide many of the legal protections committed gay couples seek and, we would add, deserve.
This amendment closes the door on even that. If calling a committed gay relationship "marriage" upsets, that's no reason to make providing legal protections to loving committed couples unconstitutional.
The amendment's supporters point to a clear legislative intent to target just gays. But legislative intent is only one factor judges consider in such cases, and the language is abundantly clear: "unmarried individuals."
Supporters say this amendment is necessary to stop "activist judges" who would legalize gay marriage. OK, but what is to stop "activist judges" in this state from ruling that the second sentence trumps any protections and benefits now possible in Wisconsin for all unmarried couples?
This is a door unnecessarily opened. It does close another door, however, to a step for gay couples that also poses no danger to marriage: civil unions.
Supporters are making much of a decision by the New Jersey Supreme Court on Wednesday.
Don't be fooled. The decision does not legalize gay marriage. It compels that state to provide equal rights to gay couples, leaving it up to the legislators what to call this union. This, in our view, will not compel any church to perform a gay marriage there. And neither will voting "no" on Wisconsin's amendment. In any case, unlike in New Jersey, Wisconsin law already prohibits gay marriage.
But put the legalities aside. This amendment was crafted by the Legislature to bring out so-called values voters in a gubernatorial race that they desperately want their side to win for reasons that have nothing to do with these voters' "values." Worse, this was approved by legislators who regularly bemoan big government.
Government doesn't get any bigger than when it pokes its nose into relationships that harm no one. And it is a beastly behemoth when it can shut the door on protections and benefits for couples, gay or not, who are in such relationships.
No matter where you stand on the homosexual marriage, question, the fact is Constitutions have long been understood to protect individuals freedoms and equality from the abuse of excessive government power.
The marriage amendment dishonors that dictum and opens the door to unintended restrictive consequences that reach beyond prohibiting homosexuals from marrying. A Northwestern reader and letter writer against the marriage amendment recently echoed that. The author warned not of gay marriage but of voters weaving "punishing limitations into a document meant to expand everyone's civil equality."
That message is pure Wisconsin from a Wisconsinite demanding the best. The best for everyone.
The Final Thought: Voters' beliefs and decisions are, honorably, their own to keep and make. But the Nov. 7 state referendum amending the Constitutional definition of marriage is more un-Wisconsin than "On Wisconsin."
In today's Wisconsin State Journal, columnist and editorial page editor Scott Milfred talks about why groups like the Wisconsin Technology Council and the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce have expressed concerns about the amendment:
The Wisconsin Technology Council issued a polite yet clear statement on the issue Friday. The council is a nonprofit science and technology adviser to state leaders. It fights to expand and promote Wisconsin's high-tech, modern economy.
Former Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson appointed most of the Tech Council's members, so this is hardly a liberal Madison group. Its chairman is Mark Bugher, Thompson's former administration secretary. Its president is Tom Still, former associate editor of the State Journal.
Here's what they said:He closes:
"Wisconsin must remain a place where innovative people want to live and work. If existing or proposed laws, ordinances and constitutional amendments send the message that Wisconsin is not diverse or tolerant, the state will be placed at a disadvantage in the national and global competition for human capital. And without human capital, Wisconsin cannot grow a prosperous, knowledge-based economy."
The Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce is opposing the marriage amendment because it "may limit employers' ability to provide benefits to unmarried employees and their partners, regardless of whether the couple is heterosexual or of the same sex."
Wisconsin offers plenty of outdoor fun and beauty, lively cities and other attributes. But when a state goes out of its way to bash gay and lesbian people, that's not only wrong -- it's lame.
It suggests to this important demographic of future business leaders -- whether gay or straight -- that the state is filled with uptight people bent on telling others how to live their lives.
It's a real buzz kill.
But consider what could happen if Wisconsin does indeed lead the nation in treating gay and lesbian people fairly. Suppose Wisconsin becomes the first to defeat such an unnecessary and backward amendment.
The nation would know that the heart of the heartland is a modern, fair and with-it place.
Tourism could surge. More young professionals and companies would give us an extra look.
A no vote Nov. 7 will help make Wisconsin a welcoming place for everyone in our community -- including commerce.