Wisconsin unlikely to follow Minnesota's lead on gay marriage

2013-05-14T00:00:00Z 2013-05-14T05:57:40Z Wisconsin unlikely to follow Minnesota's lead on gay marriageBy Chris Hubbuch | chubbuch@lacrossetribune.com La Crosse Tribune

Wisconsin is not likely to follow suit anytime soon on legalizing same-sex marriage, despite the actions of neighboring states and shifting public sentiment.

That’s because voters in 2006 approved a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman and denying legal status “identical or substantially similar to that of marriage.”

Reversing that could take the better part of a decade, according to equal rights advocates, and only a broad ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court on either of two pending cases — generally considered unlikely — would affect Wisconsin.

Nevertheless, gay rights advocates hailed Minnesota’s passage Monday of a same-sex marriage bill.

“We’re very excited about Minnesota and the victory there,” said Katie Belanger, executive director of Fair Wisconsin, a nonprofit advocacy group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights. “It highlights how quickly our country is moving.”

Though Fair Wisconsin is committed to overturning the state’s ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions, Belanger acknowledged the process would take at least four or five years even with a supportive Legislature.

With both the state House and Senate under GOP control, “it becomes an even longer process,” she said.

To undo the 2006 ban would require passage of a new amendment. That requires passage of an identical bill in two consecutive legislative sessions, followed by majority approval in a statewide voter referendum. The process generally takes about three years, though it can be accomplished in as few as nine months, according to the Legislative Reference Bureau.

Wisconsin voters approved 142 constitutional amendments in the state’s first 160 years, rejecting another 32 proposed amendments. The most recent amendment, approved in 2008, limits the governor’s line-item veto power, which was granted by a 1930 amendment.

But even if such an amendment passed, there’s a state law defining marriage as between “a husband and wife” that would need to be repealed or amended.

Belanger notes public sentiment is changing fast.

Two polls taken earlier this year show support for same-sex marriage has grown substantially since the 2006 amendment — with 42 to 46 percent now in favor — but still falls short of the majority needed to overturn the amendment.

In the mean time, she said, Fair Wisconsin has focused on local-level politics, helping to pass domestic partnership ordinances in communities including Appleton, Janesville, Kenosha and Eau Claire.

Chances are slim, too, that two cases before the U.S. Supreme Court — a challenge to California’s ban on same-sex marriage and to the federal Defense of Marriage Act — would affect Wisconsin’s ban, gay rights advocates and legal scholars said.

The court could take a number of actions in either case that would invalidate all or parts of those laws but not affect Wisconsin’s, said Andrew Coan, an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School in Madison. For example, it might determine California’s ban is unconstitutional because it rescinded a right already granted; that would leave other states’ bans intact.

“Short of a really broad ruling … neither of these cases is likely to have an immediate impact on the state of Wisconsin,” Coan said.

However, he said, it’s likely a ruling on one or both cases could provide a precedent for a future challenge.

Though she doesn’t expect the court to rule in a way that directly furthers the cause of same-sex marriage in Wisconsin, Belanger said she is optimistic the rulings will be a positive step in swaying public and legal opinions.

Copyright 2015 La Crosse Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(25) Comments

  1. RemoteEmployee
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    RemoteEmployee - May 15, 2013 7:14 pm
    Don't forget shellfish
  2. RemoteEmployee
    Report Abuse
    RemoteEmployee - May 15, 2013 6:41 pm
    It is a right: It is called Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. RE: The 14th Amendment - Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
  3. LAXTEA
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    LAXTEA - May 15, 2013 6:49 am
    (It's not a "right")
  4. JBirdiePP
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    JBirdiePP - May 14, 2013 10:32 pm
    Oh no. ..it will suck when Gay couples put money into the economy with their elaborate weddings. Oh no... the neighbors are Gay and I have kids. .. now they will grow up Gay. Get over it people, everyone has the right to choose who they love. Don't be dumb
  5. Anonangel
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    Anonangel - May 14, 2013 9:01 pm
    I could really care less....
  6. Monteee
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    Monteee - May 14, 2013 8:09 pm
    Which one?
  7. CaptainCrunch
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    CaptainCrunch - May 14, 2013 7:26 pm
    Thank God.
  8. Monteee
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    Monteee - May 14, 2013 6:52 pm
    >>>all men were created equal let's put that into effect.<<

    We've been trying to apply that concept to all citizens for over 200 years. Sadly, it's still a work in progress.
  9. Clara Fying
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    Clara Fying - May 14, 2013 6:45 pm
    Deadwood, absolutely right!
  10. Sinful4U
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    Sinful4U - May 14, 2013 6:31 pm
    I just wonder what gives the right for anyone else to decide whether i have the right to marry the one I love. I have spent the last 5 1/2 years with my partner and i would like to be able to have the same rights as anyone else. we didn't get to vote whether it was ok for straights to marry Why should it be put to vote if we can marry? equal rights for all citizens. all men were created equal let's put that into effect
  11. Cassandra
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    Cassandra - May 14, 2013 12:50 pm
    Amen!
  12. Cassandra
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    Cassandra - May 14, 2013 12:50 pm
    Minnesota has marriage equality, a growing economy and falling unemployment. Wisconsin has an anti-marriage constitutional amendment, a lackluster economy and Walker still hasn't created any jobs. I wonder about the correlation.
  13. Monteee
    Report Abuse
    Monteee - May 14, 2013 12:35 pm
    For thousands of years before the rise of Judeo-Christian culture, men enjoyed multiple wives, concubines, and slave women. The ancient Greeks and Romans not only tolerated male homosexual relationships, they also encouraged them (mostly in the form of pederasty = older patriarch with a younger subordinate). Little to no attention was paid to female homosexuals, as they represented no threat to a patriarch's status or to the "natural order".

    As Judeo-Christian culture came to dominate the European/Mediterranean region, all homosexuals were cut out of society and forced to live in secret. Those homosexuals who were of the wealthy classes had the power to keep their lives private. Those of the poorer classes were out of luck.

    Gay people have always existed. The only thing that has changed is the hetero majority's reaction to them. We can either treat them as equal human beings and fellow citizens, or we can return to older times and ostracize them....or burn them.



  14. quimby
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    quimby - May 14, 2013 11:56 am
    Gay marriage will soon be legal in Wisconsin - and the rest of the country - as younger, more tolerant generations gain political influence. Fight against it if you wish, but at least recognize that gay marriage is inevitable in the U.S.
  15. Monteee
    Report Abuse
    Monteee - May 14, 2013 10:49 am
    "weird" = that which I do not understand; with which I am not familiar

    And weird is BAD, isn't it? Weird must be eliminated, destroyed, KILLED.

    Weird frightens and confuses me! Destroy it!! GET RID OF IT!!
  16. Monteee
    Report Abuse
    Monteee - May 14, 2013 10:45 am
    Yeah, mullman, I know what you mean. That "family" across the street from me, the two 40-ish women with the three kids, they were completely destroying my entire neighborhood. Our kids wouldn't go to school, drug use increased, divorces left and right, our lawns were dying, the street lights stopped working, and even our dogs went missing. But once that "family" moved away, everything got better. Even the dogs came back!

    21st century ignorance and superstition........gotta love it.
  17. FUBAR
    Report Abuse
    FUBAR - May 14, 2013 10:22 am
    "Thousands of years of human history shows that the most successful societies are those structured with families consisting of one man and one woman"

    WELL, it is easy to be the most successful when no one esle is allowed to try. Please show me in History where a gay society has been allowed to write their own history.
  18. FUBAR
    Report Abuse
    FUBAR - May 14, 2013 10:20 am
    Protect? Gay marriage does not take away any of the rights of a "traditional" marriage.

    I am a happily married man (with my wife) and if Adam and Steve wanted to get married it would have NO, NONE, ZIPPO impact on my marriage. Why does this bother people like you so much "retiredone"?

  19. Deadwood subscriber
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    Deadwood subscriber - May 14, 2013 10:05 am
    Latest research indicates that having two parents, irrespective of their sex, is better than having one.

    Given that half of hetero marriages end in divorce, it seems better for your "successful society" to do everything it can to give children two loving, committed parents, be the straight or gay.
  20. Opus
    Report Abuse
    Opus - May 14, 2013 9:21 am
    Human history is being re-written every minute of every day. We should continue to think the world is flat just because our ancestors did?
  21. mullman71
    Report Abuse
    mullman71 - May 14, 2013 9:05 am
    Thousands of years of human history shows that the most successful societies are those structured with families consisting of one man and one woman raising children to become productive members of society. People can live with and love whoever they want but that does not give them the right to re-write history and re-define what marriage is.
  22. shameless
    Report Abuse
    shameless - May 14, 2013 8:17 am
    According to the bible, mutli fabric clothing and working on Sundays are "weird". Should we legislate that too?
  23. retiredone
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    retiredone - May 14, 2013 7:36 am
    Wisconsin is right-protect the one man - one woman marriage. Anything else is weird!!!
  24. Buggs Raplin
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    Buggs Raplin - May 14, 2013 7:18 am
    Hopefully, the Supreme Court will finally do something right and outlaw all bans on gay marriage.
  25. Monteee
    Report Abuse
    Monteee - May 14, 2013 6:02 am
    No state or federal constitution should have any articles or amendments which restrict the liberties and rights of the People. Constitutions are for defining and restricting the powers of government and nothing more.
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