On Nov. 7, students have the chance to make history. We as young people have the opportunity to take a stand, to say no to discrimination and to fight the civil rights battle of our generation.
This fall, Wisconsin voters will be asked to decide if we should add this to our State Constitution:
"Only a marriage between one man and one woman will be valid or recognized in this state. A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized in this state."
Marriage is already against the law for gay couples in Wisconsin. The ban would not only permanently enshrine this discrimination into our constitution, but it would also ban civil unions and other legal protections for gay couples.
This Election Day, Wisconsin has the chance to be the first state to defeat an amendment to ban marriage and civil unions for gay couples, and students can make the difference.
In a recent Capital Times article, Professor Kathy Cramer Walsh said that for this amendment, "the campus vote statewide will be the deciding factor."
In states that have already passed similar amendments, we're seeing the legal consequences — domestic partner benefits taken away in Michigan and domestic violence charges dismissed in Ohio. These are just a couple examples, and more cases are pending to determine just how many rights are going to be taken away or banned.
The question on the Nov. 7 ballot is no abstract debate. It is a question about real people and about how we treat our friends, our family and our neighbors. It is a question about people's lives — people who live in every part of this state.
In late August, a top professor announced his decision to leave the University of Wisconsin for the University of Pennsylvania. During his six short years at the university, Rob Carpick brought in numerous awards and millions of dollars for his research. Although Carpick loved living in Madison and his job at UW, he felt that his choice was clear. He didn't leave for a more lucrative position or a better location; instead, he left because he is gay and can't get health care for his partner.
Carol and Virginia live in Eau Claire. They've been together for the past 30 years and have raised two children together. A couple years ago, Carol was admitted to the hospital for serious heart problems. Virginia rushed to the hospital, but when she got there she was barred from seeing Carol because she was not her next of kin. Virginia was forced to wait on the other side of the hospital door, not sure if the love of her life — her partner of 30 years — was dying.
If this ban on civil unions and marriage passes, it would only make experiences like these that much worse by eliminating the hope of rights for gay couples, and by seriously jeopardizing any existing legal protections.
It would tell professors like Rob Carpick that their work would be valued more elsewhere.
It would tell families like Carol and Virginia that, even though they've been together for 30 years, raised children and contributed to their community, they don't deserve the rights everyone else has.
It would say to some of our own students on this campus that we don't want to ensure them civil rights.
It would say to all LGBT people that they are not valued in this state — that their lives are merely convenient political pawns. The more states that pass anti-gay amendments, the more we hear that message loud and clear across the country, and it needs to stop here.
I truly believe in our generation. I believe we see past the rhetoric of "protecting marriage" and will stand up against this discrimination by voting "no" this fall.
But we need your help. Join us in the fight to defeat this amendment. Come to the Students for a Fair Wisconsin Kickoff on Sept. 7 at 7:30 p.m., TITU.
This is our chance to shape history. We have the power to make Wisconsin the first state to ever stop an anti-gay amendment and to send a message across the country.
Join us at our kickoff meeting and on Nov. 7. Vote "no."
Andy Gordon is a junior and the campus coordinator for Fair Wisconsin.