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Wisconsin unions
join fight against same-sex marriage ban

Wisconsin unions
join fight against same-sex marriage ban

Labor unions are joining forces to fight a proposed ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions in what could become a powerful force in Wisconsin's November 7 referendum. The groups, representing employees ranging from teachers to prison workers, say they are worried the amendment will take away their ability to bargain for benefits such as health insurance for the domestic partners of gay and straight employees.

The unions are making donations, organizing volunteers, and educating their members as part of their attempts to make Wisconsin the first state to defeat a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. AFSCME, which represents 44,000 public service and health care workers in Wisconsin, became the latest to join the cause on Monday with a strong denunciation of the ban from its political arm and a vow to get its message out.

The unions are underscoring the main argument made by the ban's critics: that it is not about same-sex marriage, which is already illegal in Wisconsin, but that it threatens a range of legal protections for all unmarried couples. Others say those fears are overblown.

Brian Weeks, director of AFSCME's political arm, called the amendment "an attack on labor unions' collective bargaining rights." He said the group's locals representing public employees for the city of Madison and Dane County stand to lose benefits if the amendment passes. "Backers of this ban are trying to break deals and take away rights and protections that working people have earned through good-faith negotiations," Weeks said. (AP)

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