Republican candidate for lieutenant governor Rebecca Kleefisch issued an apology Thursday for questionable statements she made this year on a Christian talk radio show about domestic partnerships.

During an interview on WVCY radio in Milwaukee on January 25, Kleefisch was asked about Gov. Jim Doyle’s inclusion of a statewide domestic partnership registry in the state’s 2009 biennial budget, as well as an extension of domestic partner benefits to gay state employees. The benefits involved medical leave for gay partners and hospital visitation rights.

Kleefisch called the domestic partnership laws fiscally irresponsible and said the state should not be handing out money to just anyone.

Kleefisch then asked, “At what point are we going to OK marrying inanimate objects? Can I marry this table, or this, you know, clock? Can we marry dogs”?

Attention was brought to the statements this week by protesters
picketing her appearance on campus at the University of
Wisconsin-Waukesha.

During her appearance at UW-Waukesha, Kleefisch explained her comments stating she did not intend to sound insensitive and her concerns were about changing the definition of marriage.

“My comments were meant to relay my concern with redefining marriage,” Kleefisch said in the
statement. “I
never intended to sound insensitive, and have the utmost respect for all
people. I apologize for my poor choice of words.”

In 2006, Wisconsin voters passed a constitutional amendment defining marriage as “between one man and one woman,” a stance Kleefisch’s running mate and Republican gubernatorial hopeful Scott Walker has said he supports.

Kleefisch’s opponent, Democrat and current Assembly majority leader Tom Nelson, opposed the amendment and said her original statements were disrespectful and inappropriate.

As Milwaukee County executive, Walker vetoed a proposal granting domestic partner benefits to gay Wisconsin residents in 2009. He later said he would do the same to a similar state law.

The campaign of Nelson’s running mate, gubernatorial candidate Tom Barrett, echoed Nelson’s sentiment on the issue.

Barrett spokesperson Phil Walzak said the apology rings hollow.

“Scott Walker and Rebecca Kleefisch are sorry that these comments were publicized this week,” he said. “These comments were out there for months.”

Wisconsin Family Council Chief Executive Officer Julaine Appling said in an e-mail to The Badger Herald the people of Wisconsin know what Kleefisch meant and the timing of the protest was politically motivated.

“Let’s call this what it really is – it’s special interest groups who don’t like Walker and Kleefisch grasping to find something to use against them in the closing days of the campaign,” Appling said.

Appling petitioned the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 2009 to declare the same-sex domestic partnership registry unconstitutional, asking for a permanent injunction against it.

Katie Belanger, executive director of the gay rights group Fair Wisconsin, said while the group is glad Kleefisch apologized, it does not address the underlying issue.

“We are appreciative of Rebecca Kleefisch’s apology today. This does not change her opinion that gays and lesbians do not deserve the same rights afforded to all Wisconsinites.”

The Walker and Kleefisch campaigns could not be reached for comment.