Letter to the Editor

(Brent Schwert)

Dear Lawrentians,
I grew up in Wisconsin. I graduated from Lawrence (class of ’77). Although I live in England, I’ve always been proud of my Wisconsin roots-home to good people with open minds and good hearts. When did equality become a dirty word?
I was saddened to learn that the legislature voted for a constitutional ban on gay marriage and civil partnerships. If adopted, it posts a “gays unwelcome” sign on Wisconsin’s borders.
I and my partner of 20 years recently registered our civil partnership. Under British law, we are one another’s next of kin and have the same legal protections as married couples, as well as the same obligations to support one another.
Who are we hurting? On the contrary, we care for one another and a wide circle of friends (straight and gay); my partner took care of thousands of people in her medical practice. Everyone we meet sees that we are just an ordinary couple and our family and friends in Wisconsin are delighted that we can openly share our commitment.
And who is going to be hurt by this anti-minority initiative? Wisconsin. A “no gays” sign at the borders means a brain drain, which has enormous consequences for the economy. Businesses with a diverse workforce cannot set up here. Entrepreneurs aren’t exclusively heterosexual. You’ll have fewer options when you graduate and are looking for a job.
I went on from Lawrence and became a lawyer, practicing in Wisconsin, defending the vulnerable and the poor. When I left the state to be with my partner, what happened to my clients? My partner is a GP who had an offer to join a rural practice in Wisconsin, but couldn’t get a visa because we couldn’t “marry”. Does Wisconsin really have a surfeit of professionals willing to fill the gap?
And partners look after one another. If you had an accident and were unconscious, wouldn’t you want the person closest to you making decisions about your care? We do, too. And though it’s impossible for you to imagine life when you are old, think of your grandparents. What if your grandfather died, your grandmother had no right to his pension and had to sell the family home to pay estate taxes? She becomes the so-called “burden on society” even though her partnership was in the black when her partner died.
You’re probably reading this, thinking, “What does this have to do with me?” Well, when I was at Lawrence, I thought that one day I would find my life’s partner, but I had no idea that she would be a she. But when I was at Lawrence, I did know that equality and civil rights were precious things to be fought for and never to be taken for granted. If you don’t stand up for these values that America stands for, who will?
If you’re not registered to vote, register. If you’re registered at home, get an absentee ballot. Vote No to prejudice and alienation. Vote No on the ban.Yours truly,
Sally March

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