Monday, November 14, 2005

A New Fight For Civil Rights In Wisconsin

The battle rages state by state and should be at the forefront in Wisconsin for 2006: the right of marriage for homosexuals. After Governor Doyle vetoed the "Defense of Marriage" bill in 2003, Republicans in the state legislature immediately began their campaign to enshrine such state-sponsored bigotry in the state's Constitution. The measure must pass both houses of the legislature in consecutive sessions before it can be presented to the voters. Currently, the proposed Amendment has passed both houses once already, in 2004, and Republican lawmakers are working to get the measure passed through both Republican-controlled houses again in time for next year's gubernatorial elections.

From JS Online:

Republican supporters of the amendment hope for maximum political punch by timing the statewide vote to next year's governor's election, in which the GOP hopes to unseat Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle.

Certainly a viable political strategy. However, it also clearly demonstrates what this issue really means to elected Republicans, in spite of all the ideological hooplah. Gay marriage remains the most powerful get-out-the-vote issue of our times.

The best gauge to measure the purpose of this Amendment is the nature of the advocacy groups pushing for it:

"People who will come out to vote for this might never have gone to vote" otherwise, said Julaine Appling, executive director of the Family Research Institute, which supports the amendment and advocates for sexual abstinence before marriage, preserving traditional marriage and restricting access to abortions.


The Family Research Institute has shipped DVDs called "The Battle for Marriage in Wisconsin" to 4,000 churches to help mobilize support, with church leaders already gathering about 75,000 signatures backing it.

This is where the ideological rubber really meets the road. This issue has nothing whatsoever to do with the role of marriage in our society. It doesn't even really have much to do with the normal panoply of desired restrictions on sexual activity that make up the bulk of conservative Christian social policy.

This issue is about two things: giving statutory teeth to conservative Christian moral beliefs and creating a legalized justification for relegating homosexuals to a second-class status. Both of these ideas are patently Unconstitutional and cut against the very ideals upon which the United States was founded. Wisconsin also has had a long tradition of progressive and libertarian idealism, both of which are threatened by this onerous Amendment.

On the positive side, many progressive Christian organizations are beginning to wake up to the danger posed by their conservative brethren and are pushing back.

Under the umbrella of a group called Christians for Equality in Wisconsin, 16 regional faith organizations, including the Greater Milwaukee Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and 19 congregations have formally opposed the amendment.

"It seemed important to us that there were Christian voices calling for inclusion and fairness," said the Rev. Curt Anderson, head of Christians for Equality in Wisconsin and senior pastor at First Congregational United Church of Christ in Madison.

The ban on gay marriage in Wisconsin is a clear abuse of the state's constitutional process; an abuse that the Republicans have been only too willing to perpetrate when their pet legislative initiatives are vetoed by Governor Doyle (Voter ID and Veto Restriction Amendments are both pending). There is no evidence available to indicate any negative societal consequences from expanding the statutory definition of marriage to include homosexual couples. The basis for this Amendment is pure bigotry, planted in religious ideology that has no place in a state (or federal) Constitution.

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