City leaders in
Madison, Wis., will vow to uphold the state
constitution when they are sworn into office in April but
with a caveat: Many plan to add a statement protesting
the state's new same-sex marriage ban. The city
council voted 14-4 Tuesday night to let hundreds of elected
and appointed city officials opt to add a statement saying
they are taking the oath of office under protest
because the amendment "besmirches our constitution."
The statement also says the leaders will work to
reverse the ban and prevent any discriminatory effects
it may cause. Mayor Dave Cieslewicz as well as several
council members already have said they intend to use the statement.
"Voters of this city are going to be very happy
to know that their elected officials are as committed
to reversing discrimination as they are," said city
council president Austin King. The ban on same-sex
marriage and civil unions passed with 59% of the statewide
vote in November. But 76% of voters in Madison, the
state capital, voted against the amendment.
Critics said the protest sends a dangerous
signal that city officials will only uphold the parts
of the constitution they support. "You take an oath to
affirm a system of government where elected leaders
follow the law and not their own personal whims. This flies
in the face of that principle," said council member
Jed Sanborn, who voted against the ban but found it
inappropriate to tinker with the oath.
City attorney Michael May said the oath itself
cannot be changed under state law, but he believes the
protest is legal because it is a political statement
separate from the oath, similar to an inaugural address. The
Family Research Institute of Wisconsin, a social
conservative group that supported the ban, disagreed
and said it was researching ways to halt the protest.
"That logic is fundamentally flawed and shows
they are willing to cross questionable legal
boundaries to satisfy their personal convictions,"
said CEO Julaine Appling. (Ryan J. Foley, AP)