Democrats denounce measure as mean-spirited effort to thwart Governor Doyle’s re-election by drawing more conservatives to polls
MADISON, Wis.Wisconsin voters will decide in November whether to amend the state constitution to ban gay marriage and civil unions after the proposal cleared its final hurdle in the Republican-controlled Legislature on Tuesday evening.
The state Assembly’s 62-31 vote puts the amendment on the state ballot in November, when voters will also determine whether Democratic Governor Jim Doyle will get a second term in office.
A majority vote would add 43 words to the constitution declaring the state recognizes only marriage between one man and one woman and does not grant a similar legal status such as civil unions to unmarried individuals.
Supporters said the amendment would defend marriage from legal challenges seeking to extend marriage to same-sex couples, such as one that was successful in Massachusetts. The amendment would also ban civil unions in which gay couples are granted many of the same state benefits as married couples.
“An issue of this importance will be decided by the people of this state, not an activist judge,” said Assembly Speaker John Gard, a Republican.
Critics said the amendment is not needed because state law already defines marriage as between a husband and wife. They contend the amendment would outlaw benefits such as health care provided by many municipal governments and private companies to partners of gay employees.
Supporters acknowledged the courts would have to sort out what benefits could be offered to gay and unmarried couples. But they said the intent was to defend the tradition of marriage as between one man and one woman.
Democrats railed against the bill on the Assembly floor for more than three hours. They called it a mean-spirited attempt to draw more conservatives to the polls in hopes of defeating Doyle in his bid for a second four-year term.
The governor vetoed a previous attempt to define marriage as between one man and one woman and has denounced the amendment, which bypasses his desk.
The two Republicans seeking their party’s nomination for governor Congressman Mark Green and Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker both support the ban.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, March 3, 2006.