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

29 Comments:

At 4:07 PM, Blogger Justin Sweet said...

Awesome! Thanks for sharing this Coleman.

 
At 5:49 PM, Anonymous Jason in California said...

This is amazing!!!

I don't live in Wisconsin. My partner is from there, and his family lives near the Madison area. I just wanted to say thanks for all you guys have done/are doing.

 
At 6:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is so delightful, I can feel it in my toes.

Mama

 
At 8:01 PM, Anonymous quilly said...

So, when is DAWN going to run for office? I like her much better than her husband!

 
At 8:40 PM, Blogger Jen said...

Wow - just the fact that this woman chose to speak out publicly against her husband's work shows how unfair this proposed amendment really is.

 
At 9:23 PM, Blogger David Schowengerdt said...

Wonderful commentary on such a basic, principled level about why this amendment is so wrong. Thank you so much, Dawn!

 
At 9:23 PM, Blogger David Schowengerdt said...

Wonderful commentary on such a basic, principled level about why this amendment is so wrong. Thank you so much, Dawn!

 
At 9:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if my comment will be posted, since it's in opposition, but I think that civil union, or marriage should be between a man and woman. If this is truly about equal civil rights, regarding health insurance, etc. then let's try to change it from that aspect - go after insurance companies and legislation which would make it legal for an employee to name one person, regardless of whether married to them or not, as the person they want to have insurance benefits that would be equal to as if they were married, but marriage between 2 of same sex? no way. God made Adam and Eve as marriage partners, not 2 people of same sex.

 
At 11:21 AM, Anonymous keith said...

Hey, Anonymous, you are thinking in the right direction. You are not in opposition at all.

I trust that you will be voting NO on the amendment. Because, although the amendment's first sentence refers to marriage, it is the SECOND sentence that is really what would change things.

The second sentence would PREVENT Wisconsin lawmakers from doing what you suggest.

The second sentence would PERMANENTLY close the door to any sort of solution to the insecurities that non-married families face.

Read up on the far-reaching effects of the amendment, and tell all your friends that it's not about marriage.

Voting NO still preserves marriage as one man and one woman.

 
At 2:12 PM, Anonymous Mary Sykes said...

Coleman, thanks so much for posting this. Ms. Freese, I applaud your courage in speaking out. You spoke to this in a most articulate way. Thank you.

 
At 7:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the ammendment passes, how would that affect insurance etc... if neither civil unions or domestic partnerships are currently recognized by the state as it is (is that correct?), and employee benefit packages already grant a "domestic partner" (as specified by their guidelines) the same benefits as the employee, how would this ammendment change anything in that regard? So wouldn't a "yes" be a win/win for both, since the "partners" of non-married couples regardless of gender would still have the benefits rights. Unmarried couples will keep their benefits, and the institution of marriage is protected; seems logical to me.

 
At 8:41 PM, Blogger Jenn said...

Anonymous, your question is a good one, because all this can be very confusing.
You're correct: neither civil unions nor domestic partnerships are recognized in this state, and a "yes" vote will ensure that they are never recognized. So right off the bat, a "yes" vote guarantees that a partner of a state employee will never receive health insurance under a civil union or domestic partnership. While some private companies offer domestic partner benefits that are similar to marital benefits, we simply do not know if those will be left alone or be contested if this amendment passes. Amendment supporters say they'll be left alone, but they haven't been in other states with amendments. So again, health benefits are in jeopardy with a "yes" vote. And frankly, since our health insurance premiums go up as the uninsured make claims that can't be paid, I would rather see as many people under health insurance as possible.

 
At 8:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So then, if no civil unions or DP's are recognized currently, there would be grounds for succesfful legislation against the insurance companies for denial of benefits that were supplied under the current climate of the law. What new reason would insurance companies have to deny benefits? It seems to me that they could not flip flop on this issue once they have made exception since there would be such a public outcry... I just don't see that happening.

 
At 8:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I disagree with Keith's assessment that the second sentence of the proposed legislation would prevent lawmakers from prohibiting insurance companies from denying coverage; once an exception has been made, it is almost impossible to go back on it, that is why insurance companies are very resistant to making exceptions. I don't think a YES vote will change the insurance of anyone.

 
At 8:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also, the door is never permanently closed with regard to overturning legislation.

 
At 8:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

an addendum, voting no will only preserve the current law stating that marriage is between a "husband" and a "wife." I have family that are members of the gay community, I have not asked them this question, but do you know if they would be in favor of changing the law if the wording just pertained to the first part of the legislation? If the issues aren't, as you say, related to marriage, wouldn't the gay community be in favor of legislation that would protect the benefits of insurance, but also would protect the name of marriage and keep things like civil unions and DP's off the books? It seems to me that this would make sense.

 
At 9:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

By "they" I mean members of the gay community, not my family specifically

 
At 11:23 PM, Blogger Bruce Eggum said...

I absolutely agree with you Dawn.
It has been a slow difficult struggle to get women’s rights and other rights for minorities. We have made progress. This "marriage amendment" would take us back to the beginning if allowed. All rights would be in jeopardy.
Bruce Eggum
www.doinggovernment.com

 
At 7:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why has no one answered my question?

 
At 8:52 AM, Blogger Jenn said...

What new reason would insurance companies have to deny benefits?

Because if a judge deems health insurance benefits as "substantially similar" to marriage, they could be declared unconstitutional. This very thing is going through the courts in other states right now.

 
At 8:52 AM, Blogger Lawyapalooza said...

Anon,
Most gay people are concerned about protecting their families. We don;'t care much if you call it civil unions or something else, and understand that some people have adeeply held belief about the term "marriage." The reason to vote No even if you are against gay marriage, is the second sentence. Had the amendment simply said "marriage" is limited to one man and one woman, then there would not be such strong opposition, because that is the current law. The problem is they have gone too far with the second part. In other states, that part has been used to eliminate health insurance, pensions, domestic violence protections and on and on for gay and straight families.
I urge you to consider your gay relatives and vote No.

 
At 10:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So the argument now is that a judges interpretation may be that insurance benefit status = marriage and therefore would be unconstitutional. Wow, that is a stretch. Which states are going through this? It sounds made up to me.

 
At 11:46 AM, Anonymous Leona Joslyn said...

I am delighted to leave my comment at this site. I will be voting "NO" and so will the other three voters in my home. We have a close relative (and his partner) who are wonderful people, contributing to society, home owners, and just want to live their lives and hurt no one. We certainly don't need right-wing hypocrits making demands and decisions for them.
Also, as an MS patient for over 20 years, and having a sister who suffered through very early MS research in the 50's and 60's and eventually succumbed after 25 years, I support embryonic stem cell research 200%! I just shake my head in amazement when I hear right wing opponents to stem cell research. I thank the young man who came forward with the hypocracy of that right wing minister. What a crock!

Thank you, and VOTE!

 
At 2:13 PM, Blogger Kent Walker said...

Anonymous. You have nailed it on the head. It is not "made up". Some states that had state agencies that gave domestic partnership benefits have had to stop because their constitution was amended to say "substantially similar" relationships are not allowed. Who says what is "substantially similar"? That is the problem.

Like others have said, marriage is already illegal and if the amendment was one line, the first line, there would not be so much furor.

The second line is vague. It says relationships identical to or substantially similar are illegal. Julaine Appling and the sponsors of the bill were asked to define substantially similar but they refused saying it was clear. So we fight because any judge or anyone can say ANY benefit given to same-sex couples that is the same as a benefit given to married couples constitutes an identical or substantially similar to marriage.

That is just too broad. That is why we fight.

It is not made up. Michigan and Ohio are prime example of where benefits were removed or protections denied based on their constitutional amendments similar to this one. Look it up.

 
At 2:27 PM, Anonymous Brett said...

What about New Jersey and Massachusetts? That is why we fight.

 
At 2:51 PM, Blogger Kent Walker said...

What about them? New Jersey doesn't have gay marriage. Massachusetts? What harm have they cause. Your marriage failing due to New Jersey or Massachusetts?

New Jersey simply said benefits should be equal. If you give them to married folks you should give them to committed same-sex couples. I see no problem there. They didn't mandate gay marriage.

 
At 3:03 PM, Anonymous Brett said...

The examples prove that if a possibility is left open, anything can happen. Your position on Massachusetts is that "what harm has it caused?" That reflects on an attitude that many would like to avoid. Many do not want gay marriage legalized, hence the ammendment. There is nothing from stopping it in New Jersey. So, what harm is caused? None... yet. If marriage is not protected, it will be redefined eventually, and I don't want that for my children or their children. As for equal rights, sure, go ahead, but not at the expense of marriage. The denial of recognition of an "equivalent" is also to protect the social structure of the family, not just the name of marriage. This statement will likely open a whole new can of worms that hasn't been discussed, but falls back to a societies moral code. Marriage and family... these are the issues many are concerned with (and you can talk all you want about "loving same sex families with kids etc..." but many are not buying that as either acceptable nor a good idea... why? Because the moral fiber of many individuals is structured so. So, there is no point arguing with you, since your definition of morals and mine differ. But when your definition and God's differ, that's when people begin to have a problem, and action is taken.

 
At 3:55 PM, Blogger Kent Walker said...

Sure hope none of your children or grandchildren ever come to you and say, "I'm Gay" and I can't get married. Keep in mind... most gay people are born to straight folks.

How is equal rights for us coming at the expense of marriage? If I get married do they make a married couple divorce to accomodate my relationship. Wow, if that is the case no wonder you are so upset.

I am really shocked that you want to "avoid" the possibility of two same sex individuals who, through no fault of their own, love one another and would like to have a relationship or civil union and be assured the protections of the law that their next door neighbors have. Just seems like hatred to me. Keep your marriage but don't deny my rights as a citizen.

And unfortunately my definition and that of God's does not disagree. You can claim to know more about God's morality than I do but on this you can rest assured: neither of us knows exactly what God wants in situations like this. Don't speak for my deity please.

 
At 4:56 PM, Blogger Kevin said...

I have this posted on another link, but one of the anon was asking about how the amendment could affect domestic partner benefits. It sounds like they were looking for proof of how this has happened in other states. Here is some proof. Please take a look and I hope this helps to encourage you to vote no.

Utah - A group is suing to overturn Salt Lake City's domestic partner policy, arguing that it "mimics" marriage and therefore violates that state's civil unions and marriage ban. Source: Salt Lake City Tribune, January 6, 2006.

Ohio - A lawmaker who supported the state's ban in 2004 is now suing Miami University, claiming the ban invalidates the university's domestic partner policy. Source: Cincinnati Enquirer, "Brinkman Sues Over Gays," January 31, 2006.

Michigan - Governor Jennifer Granholm ordered domestic partner benefits to be removed from contracts that were being negotiated for state workers. Source: Detroit Free Press, "Michigan Pulls Same-Sex Benefits from Contracts," December 2, 2004.

Michigan - A group is suing the Ann Arbor School District in an effort to strike the school's employee domestic partner benefits policy. They are using the civil unions and marriage ban as the central legal claim against the policy. Source: Detroit Free Press, "Lawsuit Challenges Ann Arbor's Schools' Same-Sex Benefits," February 7, 2005.

Michigan - Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox ruled that existing domestic partner benefits for municipal employees cannot be renewed in future contracts. This ruling could wipe out all existing public employee domestic partner benefits from Michigan. Source: Detroit Free Press, "Cox: Cities Can't Offer Benefits to Employees' Same-Sex Partners," March 16, 2005.

Currently, 254 of the Fortune 500 companies offer domestic partner benefits. Seven of those started in 2006. In Dane County, the Capital Times reported that 46 Dane County employees are taking advantage of the domestic partner benefits. 11 are same-sex and 35 are male/female couples.

 

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