U.S. Supreme Court Blocks Voter ID Law

Just before the elections this fall, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked implementation of Wisconsin’s long-contested voter ID law, reversing the appeals court decision.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin filed a lawsuit against voter ID, just one step in an ongoing legal battle debating the merits of the law.

Justices cited concerns about implementing voter ID so close to a general election date, noting some municipal clerks’ offices had already sent out absentee ballots with no instructions for presenting a valid, government-issued photo ID. The court did not come to any conclusions about the constitutionality of this law or others similar to it. 

Ambiguity as to the constitutionality of voter ID sets the stage for future debate on the issue, and experts agree the legal struggle will likely continue.

Jay Heck, executive director of Common Cause Wisconsin, said he believes voter ID will continue to be a source of legal struggles after the elections. He said he does not believe this is the last the state and the nation have heard of voter ID by any means.

Voter ID has been a topic of debate throughout the nation, with groups struggling to pass similar laws in a variety of states. Supporters say requiring a photo ID to vote will prevent fraud, while opponents maintain such requirements are unnecessary poll taxes designed to disenfranchise minorities and the poor.

Opponents of voter ID laws have accused the laws as having partisan roots, because the citizens who are less likely to have a valid photo ID, people of low socioeconomic status, tend to vote as Democrats.

Kansas, Texas, Indiana, Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia and Virginia all have strict laws requiring a government-issued photo ID, and many other states have less strict laws requiring additional identification.

U.S. Supreme Court blocks implementation of Wisconsin voter ID lawThe U.S. Supreme Court has blocked implementation of Wisconsin’s voter ID law, reversing an appeals court decision that had reinstated Read…

U.S. Supreme Court rings in marriage equality

After years of legal battles across the nation, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case of several states’ same-sex marriage bans in October, effectively legalizing marriage for all couples in Wisconsin.

For many, the Supreme Court’s refusal to the  cases ushered in a new age of equality for people looking to marry in Wisconsin. All cases in the Fourth, Seventh and Tenth circuits were also dismissed, legalizing same-sex marriage in Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas, West Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina, in addition to Wisconsin.

A total of 35 states now legally recognize same-sex marriage.

The Supreme Court did not rule marriage bans themselves unconstitutional, but by not hearing the cases put before it, indicated that the power currently remains with circuit courts. This means marriage bans will not yet be outlawed nation-wide.

Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry in Wisconsin, said in a statement “The Court’s delay in affirming the freedom to marry nationwide prolongs the patchwork of state-to-state discrimination.”

Despite the possibility of a ban returning to Wisconsin, proponents of same-sex marriage remain optimistic. The ACLU is confident this is a turning point in the same-sex marriage debate.

“We think the Supreme Court’s action sends an unmistakable signal that the Court is comfortable with the lower court decision in favor of marriage,” Associate Director of the ACLU Molly Collins said. “And we think that lower courts will get that signal loud and clear.”

Only 15 states still have bans on same-sex marriage, pushing states where gay marriage is legally recognized into the majority for the first time in history.

Same-sex marriages back on in Wisconsin following U.S. Supreme Court orderSame-sex marriages are back on in Wisconsin after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to take up appeals from five states Read…

Madison, Milwaukee a symbol for gay rights nationally

Madison was among 38 cities in the country to earn a perfect score on the Washington-based Human Right’s Campaign’s annual Municipal Equality Index, which reviewed municipal policies relating to LGBT inclusiveness.

Madison’s inclusive employment policies, a human rights division of the city government that deals with LGBT issues, and legal recognition of civil unions and domestic partnerships, along with newly established marriage equality helped to earn it a perfect score.

The annual Municipal Equality Index also ranked Milwaukee highly, awarding Wisconsin’s largest city a 91 out of 100; putting the state’s two most populated regions well above the national average.

At the same time, gay rights advocates say there are still areas in which Madison could improve, especially with regard to the treatment of students and transgender individuals.

Steve Starkey, executive director of OutReach Community Center in Madison, said transgender people are homeless and experience unemployment at a much higher rate than the general population, including the gay and lesbian community, and this trend can also be found in the city of Madison. 

According to a study by the Movement Advancement Project, transgender people in the United States experience unemployment at twice the rate of the population as a whole.

Tim Michael, manager of Gay Straight Alliance Outreach for Wisconsin, said policies protecting students have come far, and in most schools sexual orientation and gender identity are protected classes. However, these policies don’t always pan out for students in classrooms and hallways.

“We know that sometimes policies are in print but ignored, and although a policy may say one thing, people’s real, lived experiences say something very different,” Michael said. “We know that there are lots of students who experience harassment on a day-to-day basis.”

Got Equality? Madison was ranked one of the top cities in country for LGBT rightsMadison is a national symbol of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender inclusivity, according to a recent report by the Human Read…

Walker victorious over Burke in gubernatorial election

Gov. Scott Walker will return to the governor’s mansion for a second term, fending off a challenge from Democratic opponent Mary Burke, possibly catapulting him to a White House run in 2016.

Walker — who became the first governor in U.S. history to survive a recall election in 2012 — had 53.3 percent of the vote while Burke had 45.5 percent with 91 percent of precincts reporting.

Walker was first elected governor in 2010, but was on the ballot again in 2012, facing a recall challenge that stemmed from a collect bargaining law that brought tens of thousands of protesters to the state Capitol.

Burke was a relatively political newcomer, serving on the Madison School Board since 2012. She was previously an executive at Trek Bicycle and served as the state’s commerce secretary under former Gov. Jim Doyle.

Walker’s victory also keeps him in the conversation for a possible 2016 presidential bid, Mike Wagner, a University of Wisconsin journalism professor said.

“If you’re the kind of person that thinks Gov. Walker might run for president, you have a lot of evidence to support that,” Wagner said.

In the race for attorney general, Republican Brad Schimel won with 52.6 percent of the vote, while Democrat Susan Happ had 44.3 percent of the vote with 91 percent of precincts reporting. Happ is the Jefferson County district attorney, while Schimel is the Waukesha County district attorney.

The current attorney general, J.B. Van Hollen, decided against running for a third term.

The governor’s race drew 54.23 percent of the state’s voters, or about 2.4 million voters, according the Government Accountability Board. This number makes turnout for the 2014 governor’s race the highest in a gubernatorial election since 1962, percentage-wise.

Scott Walker wins re-election as Wisconsin governorGov. Scott Walker will return to the governor’s mansion for a second term, fending off a challenge from Democratic challenger Read…

Got Equality? Madison was ranked one of the top cities in country for LGBT rightsMadison is a national symbol of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender inclusivity, according to a recent report by the Human Read…