State lawmakers should embrace rights of same-sex couples to marryWith Minnesota poised to become the 12th state to recognize same-sex unions as legitimate marriages, many questions come about on the national and local levels.
Across the country, millions of Americans are wondering: how long will it take until the rest of the nation fully recognizes the rights of our gay and lesbian citizens? And will it take more than state action, but federal intervention as well, to require states that are less-than-willing to grant these rights to same-sex couples to take notice?
In Wisconsin, many equality advocates are wondering what it will take to recognize the rights of partnerships in the Badger state.
The fight will undoubtedly face an uphill battle: a 2006 voter referendum altered the state’s constitution, restricting marriage to solely “one man, one woman.” Reversing that amendment would require two consecutive sessions of the legislature to take up the measure, and for another referendum, with different results, to pass.
Though things look bleak, there are signs of hope. The 2006 referendum passed with 59 percent of the vote. But recent polling suggests Wisconsinites are more divided on the issue (PDF) than they were seven years ago: in a poll conducted earlier this year, 44 percent in the state supported marriage equality, while 46 percent wanted to keep marriage as it stands today -- that is, without recognition for gay and lesbian couples.
That difference is within the margin of error for the poll. Broken down more, however, it’s clear that the people of Wisconsin support at least some protections for same-sex couples.
More than seven in ten Wisconsinites wanted recognition of rights for same-sex partners (marriages or civil unions), while less than three in ten said there shouldn’t be recognition of any kind.
It's plain to see that attitudes on same-sex partnerships in Wisconsin have shifted dramatically since 2006. Indeed, citizens of the Badger state have demonstrated this in a meaningful way, electing Tammy Baldwin as the first openly gay senator last fall.
Unfortunately, though feelings on the subject have changed, the 2006 referendum’s results remain in effect, leaving gay and lesbian partners across Wisconsin without equal rights to marriage afforded to straight couples.
The time to change Wisconsin’s constitution has never been more evident. The people’s attitudes are clearly shifting in favor of equality, with only a minority of Wisconsinites favoring no recognition for gay and lesbian couples.
The constitutional amendment of 2006 should be repealed, and the push to strike it from our state’s constitution should start now.