New amendment threatens gay marriage and civil unions

Katie Buchanan

A new amendment to the Wisconsin Constitution that’s on the ballot for the Nov. 7 election is stirring up quite a controversy around the Lawrence campus, as well as the state of Wisconsin.
This amendment provides that “only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage” in Wisconsin. It also provides that a “legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized in this state.”
Recently, Gay, Lesbian, Other or Whatever has been collaborating with Fair Wisconsin, an organization petitioning Wisconsin voters to vote “no” on the amendment.
Senior Emily Saltzman, an active member of GLOW, states that GLOW has been getting involved by “setting up canvassing in the Fox Valley area and putting together a list of student volunteers.”
“Gay marriage is currently illegal,” says Saltzman. “But if the amendment passes, it will be in the Wisconsin Constitution and any attempt to make it legal in the future will be even more difficult.”
“But there’s a second part to this amendment – no civil unions will be recognized,” Saltzman continued, meaning civil unions, rights under common law marriage, or domestic partnerships between any couple, gay or straight, would be considered illegal.
Ben Rinehart, Assistant Professor of Art and Art History and an openly gay man, was recently married in Canada.
“The institution of marriage is changing,” states Rinehart. “America is realizing that marriage isn’t set up perfectly for tax purposes, therefore more and more people are entering into civil unions or domestic partnerships.”
Similarly, Saltzman notes that “all civil union tax benefits and social security benefits would disappear with the passing of this amendment.”
Most Lawrence students don’t even know this amendment is up for vote. “I haven’t really looked into this issue, but now that I know about it, I will,” states sophomore Ted Toussaint. “I think that all people are equal despite their sexual orientation and that we should all have equal rights.”
Carolyn Grieco, a Catholic Christian, expresses confusion about the new amendment. “My understanding was that marriage was more or less a religious sacrament where a civil union was marriage without the church,” says the junior.
“I think it shouldn’t be passed,” concludes Grieco after much deliberation. “I don’t think it’s wrong for two people of the same sex to be together.”
When asked about what the church would say about same-sex marriage, Grieco asserted, “It depends on who you ask. People use the Bible to justify all kinds of things; some of them may be right and others are clearly not. Since I’m not a church authority, I don’t know.”
Why is this amendment being voted on now? “I think people are scared because the gay community is becoming more prominent in the media,” states Rinehart. Saltzman agrees. “GLOW and Fair Wisconsin are trying to educate voters and make clear what a vote yes means and what a vote no means.”
Polls open Nov. 7. For more information, visit or attend a GLOW meeting held every Wednesday at 8:00 p.m. in the GLOW house at 217 N. Union.