Last week Tuesday, the state of Wisconsin once again stepped into the spotlight by electing Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, to be the first openly gay Senator in United States history. With this historic election, it is time for Wisconsin to legalize gay marriage. Baldwin will soon hold one of the few state wide elected offices in Wisconsin.
By electing Baldwin, Wisconsin has proven, as a whole, that they are ready to legalize same-sex marriage. Throughout the campaign to be Wisconsin’s next Senator, neither Governor Tommy Thompson nor Baldwin made the issues of gay marriage or Rep. Baldwin’s homosexuality the center of their campaign. Thompson never attacked either of these issues since he knew that it would result in a vehement push back from voters at the ballot box.
Baldwin did not make either issue the center of her campaign as well. Baldwin knew that if she made homosexuality the center of her campaign, she would merely be viewed as a token, simply to add diversity to the American political stage. However, it is key to point out that Baldwin did not shy away from her homosexuality as she made that information readily available to anyone who wanted to know it. This is another clear sign that Wisconsin is ready for gay marriage.
Wisconsin did not elect Baldwin because they desired to be the first state to have a gay senator. We elected Baldwin because she was a strong Senate candidate, who represented the progressive Wisconsin values that have made us the state we are. Being gay was merely an attribute that played no role in decisions made by voters, just like it wasn’t an issue that Former Senator Russ Feingold is Jewish or that Gov. Scott Walker never finished college.
Marriage is an institution that is regulated by each individual state government, and, as such, it is up to government to provide its citizens with equal rights and protections under the law. If particular individuals feel that same-sex marriage is wrong because of particular religious beliefs or simply because it makes them uncomfortable, then that is fine. Religious institutions have every right to deny marriage to individuals of the same sex since they are separate bodies that have protections under the First Amendment due to the separation of church and state.
However, it is wrong for our government to allow certain individuals to participate in the institution of marriage while denying it to others. Government needs to be blind to the gender of the individuals getting married. The law should not state the marriage is only legal for one man and one woman, but that it is legal for any two consenting adults who wish to engage in the institution.
Wisconsin culture on marriage is beginning to shift, and the prospect of Senator-elect Baldwin proves that the idea of same-sex marriage is only becoming more accepted throughout our state. Finally, for those of you who continue to perceive same-sex marriage as immoral or approach it with discomfort, you must realize that gay marriage is inevitable, and you cannot stop people from being themselves when their decisions will have absolutely no effect on the way you or anyone will live their life.
Jared Mehre (email@example.com) is a sophomore majoring in political science.