The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Wisconsinites: vote to support LGBT rights

By David Seitz

Okay, I admit it: I have an irrational affinity for the state of Wisconsin. As a lifelong resident of the Badger state, I understand things that folks from other places just don’t seem to appreciate, like the rightful place of cheese and ice cream in a balanced diet. (Major food groups, of course.)
In seriousness, I do feel a genuine sense of connection to my home state, and I’m fully committed to voting there via absentee ballot. And as Mac Wisconsinites—whether or not we’re as crazy about our dairy products (or our state) as I am—we have one thing in common: By voting in our home state, we have the opportunity to help make history.

Wisconsin is poised to become the first state in the country to reject a proposed state constitutional ban on civil unions and same-gender marriage at the polls on Nov. 7. The positive impact such unprecedented rejection would have, both for families in Wisconsin and nationwide, would be tremendous.

The proposed ban, which would prohibit legal recognition of any relationship “substantially similar” to heterosexual marriage, is wrong for two simple reasons. First, it hurts real families, gay and straight, by explicitly denying them fundamental protections like hospital visitation, shared child custody and shared health insurance coverage. Second, it makes this discrimination permanent, enshrining it in our state constitution—keeping future legislatures from having any say in the matter.

Because of the harm it would do real people and its far-reaching consequences, it’s crucial that a majority of Wisconsinites vote “no” on the civil unions and marriage ban. Fortunately, there’s abundant reason to believe that we will.

For one, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights leaders in Wisconsin have had the time needed to assemble a great campaign. Amending Wisconsin’s constitution is by design a lengthy process, and LGBT and allied leaders and volunteers have taken full advantage of the time to educate voters throughout the state about the ban and why it’s wrong.
Leaders of and volunteers for the united campaign, called Fair Wisconsin, have spent the last two years contacting voters in every county in the state, building a base across cultures and faiths. They’ve also been raising the money they need to get and stay on television, the key component in stopping the ban.

Additionally, the state has a serious legacy to live up to, a tradition of what sometimes seems like miraculous fair-mindedness. If I’ve learned anything about Wisconsin from my pro-choice, Republican, retired dairy farmer grandma, it is this: we’re a stubborn, traditional bunch, but we’ve got a libertarian streak.

For generations, Wisconsinites have been able to tell their children and grandchildren that ours is a state where people stand up to wrongheaded national trends, think for themselves, and do the right thing.

In 1854, after the federal government passed the Fugitive Slave Act and many northern states were returning free African Americans into bondage, the Wisconsin Supreme Court nullified the law and the legislature prohibited its enforcement.

In 1982, when the Christian Coalition’s political influence was near its peak, the Wisconsin legislature passed the first state ban on sexual orientation-based job discrimination, and a Republican governor signed it into law.

In 2006, the national conversation on same-gender couples and their families is at a crossroads. State constitutional bans on civil unions and same-gender marriage have passed in 20 states since 1998, and while more and more Americans support marriage equality for same-gender couples, no state as of yet has emerged to stop the momentum of these discriminatory amendments.

Wisconsin can and, I believe, will emerge as a leader in resisting such discrimination. But the election is certain to be incredibly close.

So please, stand up, think for yourself, and do the right thing. Join me in voting absentee in Wisconsin, and in voting “no” on the civil unions and marriage ban. Let’s put a stop to the discrimination faced by same-gender couples and their families, and give Wisconsin another page in the civil rights history books.

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