The state Assembly failed by one vote Wednesday night to override the governor’s veto of a marriage bill that would redefine marriage in Wisconsin as solely between a man and a woman.
Three lawmakers were absent from the Assembly, so only 64 votes were needed to override Gov. Jim Doyle’s veto. However, legislators voted 63 to 33 to overturn Doyle’s decision.
The legislation would not only have changed the language to define marriage as between “one man and one woman,” but also would have required only marriages between such a couple to be recognized as valid under Wisconsin law, regardless of the laws governing marriage in the jurisdiction where the marriage was approved.
“Gov. Doyle has stubbornly refused to listen to the majority of Wisconsin citizens by vetoing a bill that would clarify state law to protect the sanctity of marriage,” Republican Party of Wisconsin Chairman Rick Graber said. “[He] is clearly out of touch with mainstream Wisconsin beliefs and values.”
State law currently defines marriage as a contract between a husband and wife. But supporters of AB 475 warned that activist judges could interpret this language loosely and allow gay couples to wed. They argued that this clarification would ensure that gay marriage would not be allowed or recognized in Wisconsin.
In response to the anti-gay characteristics of the bill, Doyle recently proposed to provide domestic partner benefits in contract negotiations for state employees.
A Badger Poll, conducted by the University of Wisconsin Research Center in September, found that 60 percent of those surveyed disapproved of any law that would allow members of the same sex to marry, and about 32 percent approved. It also showed that 48 percent of Wisconsin residents approved of same sex civil unions, while 47 percent disapproved.
American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin Executive Director Chris Ahmuty said the bill is more a statement of prejudice than law.
“The law does not recognize same gender marriages entered into in Wisconsin and could never force religious institutions to recognize such marriages,” Ahmuty said. “AB 475 is unnecessary to protect existing and future marriages between a man and a woman.”
UW junior Jenny Chong agreed, saying it is frustrating that the Legislature spent so much time debating a bill like this.
“I think that a bill that imposes personal beliefs, especially those based on religion are inappropriate,” Chong said. “This bill doesn’t help the state of our country or our citizens, only targets certain individuals. It only serves the political interests of conservative and religious groups to villify more liberal representatives like Doyle as being amoral.”
Chong, however, said she is happy that the bill was not overridden.
The Assembly approved the bill 68 to 29 last month. The Senate also passed it 22 to 10 last week, after which the measure was rushed to the governor’s desk for approval. Doyle quickly vetoed it, saying the law already clearly prohibited same-sex marriage and called the legislation “redundant” and “mean-spirited.”
Four Assembly Democrats who originally voted in favor of the AB 475 decided to vote with Doyle on Wednesday. They were Reps. Gregory Huber, D-Wausau, Mary Hubler, D-Rice Lake, Johnnie Morris, D-Milwaukee, and Terry Van Akkeren, D-Sheboygan.