Although Wisconsinites passed the ‘marriage amendment’ in 2006, polls at the time showed that they were supportive of domestic partnerships and civil unions. Advocates warned that the amendment would endanger both. Supporters of the amendment disingenuously claimed that it was only an effort to legally define marriage and not one to kill domestic partnership benefits and civil unions. A similar scenario happened in Michigan and last week their State Supreme Court ruled that public universities and other entities of the state government cannot provide domestic partner benefits to the partners of gay employees. The courts decision was based on the constitutional amendment on marriage that passed in that state.
It is only a matter of time before someone on the extreme right challenges domestic partnership benefits in Wisconsin, using the exact same formula used in Michigan. If those that supported the ‘marriage amendment’ were really serious in 2006, they would take action now to prevent that from happening.
Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) saw this coming and tried to take action only weeks after the amendment passed. At that time he drafted a proposed amendment to the state constitution that ‘would ban discrimination and open the way for state-sanctioned civil unions.’ Senator Erpenbach said that the measure would honor the ‘marriage amendment’ but would also serve to protect domestic partnership benefits and the possibility of civil unions.
Now that the warnings about the amendment are coming to fruition in our neighboring state, there should be an effort to get ahead of the inevitable in Wisconsin. Leading the way, should be all of the conservatives that defended the second sentence of the ‘marriage amendment.’ How many times did we hear them claim that it would not endanger benefits or the possibility of civil unions? Was it all just a ruse? Did the ‘family values’ crowd really swap their honesty for a political victory? Time will tell, and so will their (in)actions.