On November 7th, students at UW-Madison students and citizens across the state have a chance to let their voices be heard on the proposed ban on civil unions and marriage. While some see this issue as the civil rights battle of our generation and are extremely passionate in their views against the ban, others find themselves wanting to learn more about the issue.
In my experience, many of my friends and peers have asked similar questions about this ban, and it is apparent that two issues must be clearly addressed for voters on this campus. First, this amendment would ban more than marriage; according to its text, civil unions are also forbidden. Secondly, the civil unions and marriage ban would have a negative affect on businesses and universities in the state of Wisconsin by setting the legal precedent to permanently deny domestic partner benefits. According to City of Madison Attorney Michael, it also has the potential to roll back existing domestic partner policies in our state.
The text of the amendment states, "A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized in this state." Because of this, the ban is not a defense of marriage act and not a "gay marriage amendment". It is a ban on marriage for gay couples and a ban on civil unions.
Wisconsin residents will reject this. A majority of citizens in this state support civil unions. In fact, statewide polls have shown that around 60% of people in our state support civil unions for gay couples. Civil unions are not currently offered in Wisconsin, but if the amendment were to pass, it would permanently foreclose the possibility.
The civil unions and marriage ban would also seriously jeopardize basic legal protections for families all across the state. Marriage allows for over 1,000 rights and benefits under federal law and nearly 200 more under Wisconsin laws. Denial of health and retirement benefits, along with bereavement leave in the event of a death in the family are just a few of the many ways this amendment could severely impact otherwise loving couples in the state of Wisconsin.
In addition to hurting families in this state, the ban would also affect the quality of education we receive at this university. By setting a legal precedent to permanently disallow benefits for unmarried couples, this ban makes it harder to keep top faculty at this school. For example, Rob Carpick, an associate professor of engineering is leaving UW-Madison for the University of Pennsylvania and will be taking with him millions in grants with him. Why leave Wisconsin? The lack of health insurance for his partner.
UW-Madison is the only Big 10 school that does not offer domestic partner benefits for employees. If the ban passes, it will likely never be able to. And the loss talented faculty like Rob Carpick will only continue. Because of stories like this, Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, The Milwaukee Common Council, The Madison Common Council, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, and many others have spoken out against the ban.
Residents of Wisconsin need only look eastward towards the state of Michigan to see the impacts of their constitutional ban. After the ban was approved, the state attorney general ruled that it overturned their domestic partner policies that had been in place in some cities for years. For example, the City of Kalamazoo recently took away health coverage that they had been offering to the domestic partners of city employees. It could easily happen here.
But students can fight this. Stand up and speak out against the ban by visiting the Students for a Fair Wisconsin website at http://www.fairwisconsin.com/students/ . Find out more information about the ban, ways to volunteer, and upcoming student events. Together, we can defeat this ban and make history.
Danny Spirn [email protected] is a member of Students for a Fair Wisconsin and a junior majoring in political science and communications.