Why the Civil Unions and Marriage Ban is Wrong
This is the text of the constitutional ban that Wisconsin voters will consider on November 7th:
"Only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state. A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized in this state."
The ban has two equally significant sentences. The first sentence would permanently deny marriage rights to loving, committed gay families who live in every Wisconsin county. The second would foreclose the possibility of civil unions. It would also seriously endanger existing legal protections for all unmarried couples.
The ban will hurt real Wisconsin families
The denial of marriage hurts loving and committed lesbian and gay couples who live in every part of Wisconsin. These couples have taken on the responsibilities of marriage, yet they are denied the critical legal protections that marriage provides. The proposed constitutional ban on civil unions and marriage will make that denial of marriage permanent.
A marriage license extends over 1,000 rights, benefits, and responsibilities under federal law and nearly 200 more under Wisconsin law. These include basic things like being able to share health and retirement benefits and take bereavement leave in the case of a death in the family. Denying the important legal protections of marriage hurts real families who live in every part of the state.
The ban is extreme and far reaching
|The following oppose the proposed Wisconsin ban on civil unions and marriage, in part, because it could roll back existing domestic partner policies in our state: |
• Madison Mayor Dave Ciezlewicz
They’re not the only ones concerned about the far reach of the ban. In early 2005, 347 Wisconsin legal experts wrote letters to state lawmakers, urging them to stop the ban. And City of Madison Attorney Michael May conducted a thorough legal analysis of the ban (pdf), finding that it would threaten Madison’s domestic partner policies.
The ban goes beyond banning marriage for gay couples. It will also ban civil unions and threaten any legal protections for unmarried couples. Mainstream Christian leaders and institutions, including Lutherans, Presbyterians, and Methodists, oppose the ban because they believe it is simply unjust.
A majority of Wisconsinites support civil unions, which could offer many of the rights of marriage to gay couples. Statewide polls have shown that around 60% of people in our state support civil unions or marriage for gay couples. If people support civil unions, they should oppose the ban.
The ban could have a far-reaching impact beyond denying civil unions and marriage.
The experience of other states that have passed similar bans provides real-life evidence. The national Human Rights Campaign has compiled a report that details far-reaching consequences in these states. For example, Ohio judges have dismissed domestic violence cases involving unmarried heterosexual couples because the victims were not married to their alleged abusers. Even though the women were not gay, the judges ruled that the state's new ban prohibits legal recognition for any unmarried couples--even when it comes to domestic violence. Because of these concerns, the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence has spoken out against the ban proposed here.
In Michigan, the state attorney general ruled that the constitutional ban there overturns domestic partner policies that have been in place in some cities for years. The City of Kalamazoo recently took away health coverage that they had been offering to the domestic partners of city employees.