Volunteers from churches around Madison traveled door-to-door throughout the city Saturday in an effort to educate voters about the proposed marriage amendment appearing on the November ballot.
The canvassing event was cosponsored by Fair Wisconsin, the leading opposition group to the amendment, and will continue in Madison every Saturday and Sunday and on occasional weekdays until the vote.
"About 75 people came on Saturday and went out and knocked on almost 3,000 doors," Rachel Strauch-Nelson, press secretary for Fair Wisconsin, said. "They had personal conversations with people about the marriage ban and its negative effects in Wisconsin."
Strauch-Nelson added the personal conversations make interacting with voters "really exciting."
The latest education project is part of a statewide campaign by Fair Wisconsin to inform voters of what it sees as a discriminatory ban not only on marriage, but also on civil unions.
If passed, the constitutional amendment would prohibit recognition of any status "substantially similar" to marriage, such as the status commonly called a civil union. Though the amendment defines marriage as solely between a man and a woman, the amendment's prohibition of marriage benefits would also reach unmarried heterosexual couples.
According to Strauch-Nelson, it is that ban on rights that has inspired religious organizations to become active in opposing the amendment.
"People are coming to us who heard about the ban and decided their faith is what compels them to speak out against it," she said.
Throughout the end of September, Fair Wisconsin also sponsored a number of faith forums involving diverse faith communities in the St. Croix Valley that featured times of prayer, spiritual centering and messages of faith about the ban.
But religious groups are also organizing in support of the amendment.
"We have identified nearly 5,000 churches across the state, representing some 2 million voters that confidently support our position on [the amendment]," said Judith Brant from the Vote Yes for Marriage campaign. "There have also been well over 350 pastors who have signed a pledge protecting marriage as between one man and one woman."
Julaine Appling, CEO of the Family Research Institute of Wisconsin, recently founded Vote Yes for Marriage to promote the protection of marriage. Brant said the organization has hired a campus coordinator to create greater awareness and generate more support at the University of Wisconsin.
Yet Fair Wisconsin has already sparked campus-wide events around the state, including the formation of Students for a Fair Wisconsin groups.
"We have been sending literature out to churches for them to distribute in the community and at county fairs," Brant said. "But we don't have the infrastructure Fair Wisconsin seems to have."
Appling and Fair Wisconsin's Campaign Manger Mike Tate will face off in a debate today at 7 p.m. at UW-Waukesha. The debate is sponsored by the political web site WisPolitics.com.