All elected and appointed officials are required to recite an oath to uphold the Constitution upon taking office. A recent City Council resolution, however, will allow Madison public servants to protest a new part of Wisconsin’s most sacred document.
In reaction to the state gay marriage ban, the council approved the proposal Jan. 16 in a 14-4 vote, allowing new city officials to state their opposition to the ban while being sworn in.
The addendum, originally drafted in December by Madison’s Equal Opportunities Commission, gives newly elected and appointed officials the option to protest the marriage amendment and pledge to “work to eliminate” that section of the Constitution.
While we still very much oppose the constitutional amendment, we find this resolution to be ill-advised.
The city of Madison is setting a terrible precedent. To be sure, it is a slippery slope when public officials are allowed to formally state their opposition to a law that, just moments before, they swore to uphold. Now that the city will allow this optional statement, what reasoning would stop an elected official from stating his or her opposition to anything else in the Constitution?
For better or for worse, the people of Wisconsin passed the amendment, and our public officials are bound by it. Elected and appointed officials take an oath to uphold the Constitution for a reason; it goes to the heart of the separation of powers and rule of law inherent in our democratic system. It is not a mere formality, and those who represent us cannot simply pick and choose which laws they care to uphold.
Particularly troubling is the clause in which officials are allowed to pledge they will “work to eliminate” the amendment. It is entirely inappropriate for city officials, in the context of their formal oaths of office, to guarantee their efforts to repeal a constitutional amendment — such a statement is completely irrelevant to the duties of city officials.
Although the addendum has many supporters, most notably and disappointingly Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, it is our hope that when they take their oaths of office, reason will prevail. Madison’s elected officials should bite the bullet and agree to uphold the Constitution, warts and all.