Thursday, July 23, 2009

The many untruths and bald lies of Wisconsin Family Action

Wisconsin recently became the first state with a standing constitutional ban on gay marriage to go ahead and enact same-sex domestic partnership rights. Gov. Doyle worked the provision into his 2009 budget, and after a memo from the Legislative Council Staff confirmed that the rights did not give "comprehensive, core aspects of the legal status of marriage to same-sex couples" (and thus did not violate the constitutional amendment), the legislature went ahead and voted it into law.

It's a big step in the right direction, and a most welcome advance after the depressing amendment vote in 2006.

Of course, not content to abide by their own promises or common decency, Wisconsin Family Action decided to file a lawsuit challenging the provision, arguing that it does, in fact, violate the ban by creating something "substantially similar to marriage."

This is funny (not "ha ha" so much as "oh c'MON!") in that several WFA spokespersons, including everyone's favorite closet case Julaine Appling, took great pains to assure the public that the amendment would not negatively affect domestic partnership benefits.

I quote:
Appling also said that the amendment would not jeopardize domestic partner benefits or other legal protections for gay couples and their children.

"That's a smokescreen," she said.
(OWN points out a few other gems of this nature here)

I do not think she knows what that word means. Either that or, gasp! she lied. It's almost as though she and the rest of the WFA cadre were desperate to hide from middle-of-the-road voters the fact that they were simply out to institutionalize discrimination against a particular group of people, rather than just "saving traditional marriage" and all that soundbite-y goodness.

Of course, I doubt very much they really understand much about "traditional marriage," or the great variety of traditions all over the world and throughout history that have governed what marriage is. Heck, Appling herself hasn't ever been married - what does she know about it?

There's all kinds of mind-warping nonsense in this current lawsuit, though. Think about it: Not only does it fly in the face of their repeated statements that the amendment wouldn't be used in exactly this way, but it also makes clear the fact that said amendment was illegal in the first place, in that it contained two separate clauses: one banning gay marriage, the other civil unions, etc. I can only hope that Bill McConkey's lawsuit addressing that very issue is successful.

And there's one other issue here--the WFA is arguing that, as signed into law by Doyle, these domestic partnerships are...
... prohibited by Art. XIII, sec. 13 of the Wisconsin Constitution by creating and requiring recognition of a legal status substantially similar to that of marriage....Such domestic partnerships are entered into by same-sex partners and are officially created and acknowledged in essentially the identical way that marriages are entered into by a man and woman and are officially created and acknowledged.
As far as I can tell, though, couples registering for these benefits will be given only 40 of the 200 main rights enjoyed by straight married couples in Wisconsin. And come federal tax time, the differences will become all the more stark. How in the heck are they identical, then?

They aren't, and gay marriage or domestic partnerships don't harm a soul, but that's not really what the WFA and folks like Appling are really up in arms over. They're ignorant and scared and flailing out against positive change in any way they can conjure up. It's discrimination and disdain at its most ridiculous. Plain and simple.

Further reading: A remarkably thorough run-down of the whole debacle via an AP writer.
Further further reading: A lovely, insightful post about the issue from someone whom it effects directly.


ramblerQMT said...

I admit there is a certain amount of satisfaction that Appling is coming across as portraying gay people as an all powerful force. I love it!

Anyway, I would think the logic is simple. My lay understanding of all.. this.. is that constitutionality will take intent into consideration.

The intent of the amendment is to prohibit look-alike marriage and not to prohibit basic legal rights and protections. The amendment has a single intent. Therefore it has posed a single question.

The intent of the provisions in the budget legislation are to grant basic legal rights and benefits. The intent is not to establish a status that substantially similar to that of marriage. In other words, the intent is not to establish a look-alike marriage.

With the approved budget, the state clearly differentiates couples on the basis of sexual orientation. Marriage is used as the vehicle to grant 200+ rights at the state level and 1000+ rights at the federal level for opposite-sex couples. Domestic partnership is used to grant 43 basic rights at the state level and nothing at the federal level. Better to have this than nothing at all, even if at this time it looks discriminatory.

WFA claims that the domestic partner registry is unconstitutional. This suggests that the amendment suddenly has a second intent, correct? Either way, without bringing religious beliefs or "I just don't like them" into the equation, these people who have used the phrase "satan's minions" to describe decent people have a huge fight ahead of them. Not to mention consideration of how discrimination plays into all this.


Emily said...

Your argument makes perfect sense to me, and I, for one, certainly hope you're right.

illusory tenant said...

"How in the heck are they identical, then?"

They only have to prove "substantial similarity," which is mushy legal language to which different observers (i.e., judges) might apply different standards of measurement.

On the other hand, the petition asserts two contradictory propositions: 1) that domestic partnerships are "substantially similar" to marriage and 2) that domestic partnerships can't possibly be substantially similar to marriage because marriage glorifies some nebulous, eternal collective good while domestic partnerships are nothing more than a tentative agreement between two selfish, self-interested individuals.

Thus: 1) + 2) = FAIL.

Anonymous said...

Marriage, as it now stands, is out dated. If it has to exist at all (I think some times my life would be easier if it didn't), it should be a legally recognized union between two people in which there are benefits to both parties including:
* Filing joint income tax returns.
* Inheriting a share of your spouse's estate.
* Obtaining insurance benefits through a spouse's employer.
* Taking family leave to care for your spouse during an illness.
* Taking bereavement leave if your spouse or one of your spouse’s close relatives dies.
* Visiting your spouse in a hospital intensive care unit or during restricted visiting hours in other parts of a medical facility.
* Making medical decisions for your spouse if he or she becomes incapacitated and unable to express wishes for treatment.
* Consenting to after-death examinations and procedures.
* Making burial or other final arrangements.
* Filing for stepparent or joint adoption.
* Receiving family rates for health, homeowners', auto, and other types of insurance.
* Receiving tuition discounts and permission to use school facilities.
* Visiting rights in jails and other places where visitors are restricted to immediate family.

I am a streight person who has been with my partner for 14 years. Why should I not be getting a reduced rate on my car insurance? Am I really more of a risk because I have not gotten married?

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