Vote Yes for Marriage, the advocacy campaign for the constitutional marriage amendment, unveiled its first TV advertisement Monday. The 30-second spot features children expressing their confusion regarding effects of same-sex unions.
The organization aims to rally supporters for the proposed amendment that will be on the Wisconsin ballot Nov. 7.
If it passes, the amendment would define marriage as strictly between one woman and one man.
"Changing the definition of marriage from 'one woman and one man' to anything else is going to impact what our children are taught in schools," said Rocco DeFilippis, a representative for Vote Yes for Marriage. "Since the fundamental purpose of marriage is procreation and raising children, it's important to protect the definition."
DeFilippis said after the 2003 Massachusetts Supreme Court's ruling that legalized gay marriage, public schools in Massachusetts were required to teach homosexuality as a possible lifestyle. He said he is concerned children will come home confused, with many difficult questions for their parents.
But state Rep. Spencer Black, D-Madison, said the failure of this amendment would not change what children are taught in schools.
"If the amendment fails, nothing changes," Black said, adding pro-amendment groups are using this angle as a "scare tactic."
The proposed amendment also prohibits "a legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals," which would prevent relationships such as civil unions from being recognized in Wisconsin.
Fair Wisconsin, the leading anti-amendment organization, is focusing much of its attention on this second sentence of the amendment.
"Again, we're seeing supporters of the amendment sort of trying to fool voters into thinking that what we're voting on is gay marriage, which it's not," said Rachel Strauch-Nelson, press secretary for Fair Wisconsin. Gay marriage will still be illegal if the amendment fails, she added.
But Rep. Mark Gundrum, R-New Berlin, who authored the amendment, said he believes marriage could be vulnerable in Wisconsin without a strict definition of its terms.
"We need to pass this amendment to prevent activist judges in Wisconsin from doing what they have done in several other states, including Massachusetts and last week in New Jersey, and that is legalizing same-sex marriage from the bench," Gundrum said.
Last Wednesday, the New Jersey Supreme Court unanimously ruled that gay couples are entitled to the same legal rights and benefits as heterosexual couples, such as tuition assistance, survivors' benefits and spousal privilege in criminal trials.
Even without the amendment, the University of Wisconsin is the only Big Ten college that does not offer domestic partner benefits to employees.
Yet this year, the UW University Committee, the executive committee of the UW Faculty Senate, publicly opposed the marriage amendment. The Faculty Senate also opposed the amendment when it was suggested in 2004.
"Both the domestic-partner benefit issue and sort of the environment it would create here in Wisconsin are reasons it could be very detrimental to the university," Strauch-Nelson said.
She added the university has already seen faculty members leave because of the proposed amendment.
But Gundrum said that these partner benefits are not why people leave.
"I assume [the professors who left] were replaced by other good professors," he said.