Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Defending homosexuals, defending marriage

Something is rotten in the state of Wisconsin.

The Legislature overwhelmingly passed Assembly Bill 475, better
known as the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), only to see their
baked meats coldly furnish forth Gov. Doyle’s veto less than 48
hours later. The bill is now again before the assembly, where — if
representatives vote as they did last week — the governor’s veto
will be thankfully overridden.

DOMA states, “marriage is a civil contract between one man and
one woman” and asserts that Wisconsin will not recognize any
“marriages” inconsistent with that definition, regardless of
whether they were performed in one of the other 49 states (a clause
that may or may not be in conflict to the United States
Constitution’s fourth article, which asserts: “full faith and
credit shall be given in each state to the public acts, records and
judicial proceedings of every other state.”)


But to truly understand this bill’s significance, one must first
comprehend the controversy of homosexual unions.

On one side are those who favor the recognition of gay marriages
and feel that they should be legally treated no differently than
heterosexual marriages. On the other side are those who feel
society should not condone that which the Bible explicitly

Yet the debate seems to be lopsided at best. For all the outrage
the far right expresses toward homosexual acts, the degree of
personal affect seems to be lacking at best. Leviticus 18:22 does
state, “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is
abomination,” but even the most radical interpretation of the Bible
renders consensual homosexuality a victimless crime.

Conversely, those who consider themselves gay — whether such is
for reasons of election or biology — are very much affected by the
matter, as they are currently unable to fully enjoy the rights of a
married person. This is a sad statement about social equality.

It is clear that anti-marriage laws do not deter people from
becoming homosexuals, so what do Bible-thumping right-wingers stand
to gain by continuing to deny recognition to same-sex couples?

And so it only seems proper for conservatives to give some
ground here, something they appear to have done with DOMA, an olive
branch that Governor Doyle was too partisan to accept.

How is the controversial bill a peace offering? The key lies not
in what the legislation states but rather what it doesn’t state.
Although AB 475 denies recognition to homosexual marriages, it
doesn’t deny rights to homosexual couples. In fact, the bill leaves
open the door for a new piece of legislation similar to Vermont’s
Civil Union statute that would treat gays in the same manner as
heterosexuals in every regard but for a semantic one (substituting
the words “civil union” for “marriage”), something the Wisconsin
State Assembly should act on.

And so DOMA is really a petty game of linguistics. It is a bill
that radically values form over substance, a way of conceding the
homosexual rights debate to the left while still allowing the right
to maintain some degree of dignity through a verbal convention.

Strangely, however, there is no reason why the semantic
differential should offend the left. Homosexuals are not asking to
be treated as male/female couples, but rather simply recognized as
couples. And so a difference does exist: the word “marriage” is
being applied to those unions of men and women while the words
“civil union” are being applied to those unions of men and men or
women and women.

The mere fact that we are tardy in awarding gays’ rights does
not mean that we should overlook biological differences. It took
nearly 150 years for us to grant women certain rights and yet we
didn’t start referring to them as “men.” When slavery was
abolished, we didn’t declare all those with African heritage to be

But Gov. Doyle is not the only person who has set back the gay
rights movement recently; the New Hampshire Supreme Court did their
part as well. In a bizarre case, a man sued his wife for divorce on
grounds of adultery after learning of her sexual relations with
another woman. However, the high court ruled that since lesbian
sexual relations do not constitute intercourse per se, women cannot
commit adultery with other women.

The implications of the ruling are devastating; the New
Hampshire Supreme Court has essentially declared that lesbian sex
is something less than heterosexual sex, a decision which is not
only offensive but will also wreak havoc upon any potential civil
union laws in the state (is polygamy really to be allowed for
homosexuals and not heterosexuals?).

The debate over gay rights has raged on long enough.
Conservatives in the Wisconsin State Assembly should be applauded
for taking the first step toward a meaningful compromise that can
and should appease both sides. But the legislature must go further,
first overturning the governor’s veto and then passing a civil
union act so that the good faith of AB 475 will not be called into
question. Other states should follow with their courts treating
homosexuals no differently than heterosexuals.

If these actions are taken, a long-standing point of political
contention can be settled. And then we can truly say, “The rest is

Mac VerStandig ([email protected]) is a sophomore
majoring in rhetoric.


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