Monday, October 16, 2006

Vote "No" For A Better Wisconsin

On November 7th, Wisconsin voters we will be asked whether to change the Wisconsin Constitution to ban same-sex marriage, civil unions and domestic partnerships. Same sex marriage is already illegal in Wisconsin. And it is criminal for same-sex partners to get married somewhere else and seek to have Wisconsin recognize the marriage. Voting “no” to the amendment will not legalize same sex marriage.

So, if same-sex marriage is already illegal why does the vote matter? It matters because if the amendment passes, we will tell groups of our citizens that we want to make hatred transparent. The amendment would tell entrepreneurs and businesses that we don’t want them to be able to decide how to run their companies. If the amendment passes we will guarantee that communities will spend tax dollars to litigate complicated legal questions that put rights of elderly couples, unmarried couples and children at risk. Voting “no” isn’t simply a “gay rights” issue; voting “no” supports small government and equality in Wisconsin while protecting our pocketbooks from litigation and lost business revenue.

The amendment would create bad law. Enacting a law with the specific purpose to alienate an unpopular group is precisely what the Constitution is designed to prevent. When the Constitution has been amended, it has been for traditionally only two purposes: to modify basic political structure or to expand individual rights. Enactment of this amendment would be the first time in Wisconsin history that the drastic process of amending the State constitution, would be for the purpose of limiting, rather than expanding, individual liberty. This would be a landmark change in constitutional functioning. It would be a change contrary to the history of Wisconsin’s Constitution since we received Statehood. Given that same-sex marriage is already illegal, there is no justification for taking this drastic step. If you do not want to create a slippery slope that puts the function of our constitution at risk to the detriment of minorities, then you should vote “no.”

The amendment would also throw a number laws into question, leaving the court system to sort out the new messes that the amendment would create. This costs tax payers money and put the rights of our neighbors in jeopardy. As examples:

* The amendment would cast into doubt the protection of children with unmarried and same-sex parents, with respect to issues such as guardianship and co-parenting agreements.

* The amendment casts into doubt the ability of unmarried and same-sex couples to appoint their partners as their health care power of attorney to assist with their difficult end-of-life decisions.

* The amendment may also invalidate wills and other estate planning tools used by a unmarried individuals to direct their assets to their partner, upon their passing.

* Employee benefit plans which provide benefits to unmarried designated partners (both same sex and straight couples) would be put at risk and may be invalidated.

These uncertainties are bad for Wisconsin’s economy. Wisconsin struggles to attain and maintain its top young talent. Our State needs to be in a position to attract new business. The statistics show us that businesses want to show that they are inclusive, so that they can obtain the best talent regardless of characteristics such as race, religion, marital status or sexual orientation. Over 7,469 employers throughout the country offer domestic partner benefits, as do over 40% of Fortune 500 companies. More than 90 Wisconsin employers offer same sex benefits, including 6 of Wisconsin’s 20 largest private companies. The second sentence of the proposed amendment prevents businesses from deciding what benefits they choose to offer which will discourage businesses from relocating to Wisconsin. It would also prohibit current businesses from being able to offer the benefits that they choose; disenfranchising current employees. Attracting young talent to Wisconsin will be more difficult if the amendment passes. If you do not want Wisconsin to shut its doors to business and the tax support that it creates, vote “no.”

Finally, voting “no” does not put one’s one own marriage at risk, nor does it offend religious values. This is not about same-sex marriage which is already illegal - voting “no” means that you choose not to make an unneeded statement of hatred, you choose not to create legal havok to put our neighbor’s rights at risk, and you choose to protect our economy. Voting “no” to the amendment is a vote for a better Wisconsin. Marriage can be protected by taking dancing lessons together and leaving the Constitution alone.

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