Wisconsin residents to vote on marriage equality for gays
March 02 2006 12:00 AM ET
will decide this fall whether to amend the state
constitution to ban same-sex marriage and civil unions. The
proposal cleared its final hurdle in the
Republican-controlled legislature in Madison on
Tuesday evening, allowing the measure to appear on the
state ballot in November. That's also when voters will
determine whether Democratic governor Jim Doyle will
get a second term in office. Democrats are
calling the bill an attempt to draw more conservatives
to the polls in hopes of defeating Doyle.
The governor vetoed a previous attempt to change
state law to define marriage as the union of one
man and one woman and has denounced the proposed
constitutional amendment, which would bypass his desk.
The two Republicans seeking their party's
nomination for governor, U.S. representative Mark
Green and Milwaukee County executive Scott Walker,
support the ban.
"This is a cynical right-wing attempt to
motivate the base for the fall elections," said Rep.
Marlin Schneider, a Democrat. Rep. Mark Pocan, a
Democrat and the only openly gay member of the assembly,
called the amendment "state-sponsored discrimination."
A majority vote would add 43 words to the
constitution to declare that the state recognizes only
marriage between one man and one woman and does not
grant a similar legal status to unmarried individuals, such
as civil unions. "An issue of this importance will be
decided by the people of this state, not an activist
judge," assembly speaker John Gard, a Republican, said.
Supporters said the amendment would defend
marriage from legal challenges seeking to grant gay
couples the right to marry, such as one that was
successful in Massachusetts. The amendment also would ban
civil unions in which gay couples are granted some of
the same benefits that married couples enjoy.
Critics said the amendment is not needed because
state law already defines marriage as the union
of a husband and wife. They contend the amendment
would outlaw benefits such as health care provided to
partners of gay employees by many municipal governments and
Supporters acknowledge the courts would have to
sort out what benefits could be offered to gay and
Eighteen states have amended their constitutions
to ban same-sex marriage or to declare marriages
between gay and lesbian couples invalid, according to
Human Rights Campaign, a national gay rights group. (AP)