Sides square off over marriage amendment
Proponents argue marriage needs special protection
By Jeff Kurowski
Compass Assistant Editor
"Catholic Exploration of Wisconsin's Death Penalty and Marriage Referenda" will be presented at four locations in October. All four events are free and open to the public. For the first two, Tom Donovan, diocesan consultant for Respect Life, will give a presentation followed by questions and answers. These sessions will be:
7 to 8:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 9, St. Peter Parish, 449 High Ave., Oshkosh;
7 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 12, Holy Family Parish social hall, 2715 Taylor St., Marinette;
The last two presentations will be panel discussions led by Br. Steve Herro, O.Praem., diocesan consultant for Social Concerns. Registration three days prior to these two events is appreciated either by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at (920)272-8310 or 1-877-500-3580, ext. 8310.
7 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 12, St. James Parish, 18228 County Road R, Cooperstown;
7 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 17, St. Matthew Parish, 130 Saint Matthews St., Green Bay.
As the Nov. 7 election draws closer, supporters and opponents of the proposed constitutional amendment on marriage in Wisconsin are expanding efforts to discuss the issue with voters. Last week, Julaine Appling, CEO of the amendment-supporting Family Research Institute of Wisconsin, and Mike Tate, campaign director for Fair Wisconsin, a group that opposes the amendment, debated before a media panel at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in Green Bay. A second debate was held on Oct. 2 in Waukesha, Wis.
Appling, a former teacher, school administrator and school board member in Watertown, said the amendment is a "package deal."
"We are talking about the institution of marriage," she said. "We cannot personalize it. It's much bigger than your marriage or my marriage. We cannot redefine or redesign the institution of marriage."
Tate, who served as the state campaign manager for Howard Dean in 2004, spoke about the amendment with regard to domestic partner benefits. He said it is not a gay rights issue.
"With gay marriage already being illegal and regardless of how you feel about it, it's still going to be illegal," he said. "What is really on the line is a fundamental question of fairness. If you spend 30 or 40 or 50 years of your life with someone, you should never ever be treated like a stranger if that person is sick and dying in a hospital."
Tate added that in states where similar amendments were passed, including Michigan, some people who had health insurance through domestic partner benefits before the amendment are no
"The amendment is overly broad and vague," he said. "Even if you had a power of attorney document, could that constitutional amendment be used to void that power of attorney document?"
"A lot of judges, a lot of lawyers and a lot of courts are going to be dragged into this, and the residents of Wisconsin are going to have to read about it for years to come," he added.
Appling said there should be no fear of court cases.
"Homosexual activists have used judicial activists to find a way to get what they want done with the definition of marriage," she said, "and (they) go around state legislatures, go around the will of the people, and get a judge to redefine marriage."
"Benefits are not attached to marriage," she said. "Benefits are part of common law, legal statutes. If companies want to give benefits to people in unmarried relationships, they are going to be free to do so. The intent is to allow the structures that are currently in place to continue and to allow local units of government and private companies to give such benefits to unmarried couples in the future."
Appling believes the amendment will not create change in marriage in Wisconsin, but will secure what is in place.
"Thankfully, we will have strengthened and clarified the definition of marriage," she said. "For marriage in Wisconsin, nowhere is a husband defined as a man and a wife as a woman. What we are talking about here is a reinforcement of marriage. We need to be bolstering it, not redefining it, not redesigning it."
"Marriage is not under attack here in Wisconsin," said Tate. "Gay people already cannot get married here in Wisconsin. Marriage is an institution to be left to the legislature."
The representatives were asked to comment on the effect the amendment would or would not have on children.
"Marriage between a man and a woman is the very best environment for children because we deal with the complementarities of male and female in the parenting," said Appling. "We know
what is best for a child is to be brought up by his or her mother and father. No matter how hard they try, two women are not going to be a father to a little boy or to a little girl. No matter how hard they try, two men are not going to be a mother to a little boy or to a little girl. It doesn't happen. Children need, they deserve to know and live with their mothers and fathers."
"We want all children to have loving homes," said Tate. "We live in a world where the reality is there are a lot of single parent families. Tonight, there are 8,000 kids in the Wisconsin foster care system. I think we all can agree that they deserve a loving home. If it happens to be people that aren't in some sort of traditional marriage, then I think that's okay because they can provide a loving home. You don't have to be married, a man and wife, to provide that. In a perfect world, maybe that's what we have, but I've yet to meet anyone who is perfect."
The topic of civil unions was presented to the representatives. Appling said that civil unions have no legal definition at this time. Tate attacked the second sentence of the amendment ("... and a legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized in this state.").
"It's a rigid form of morality," he said. "That very punitive second sentence affects people gay or straight."
"The second portion is about preserving the institution of marriage," said Appling. "It's about preservation, not about punitive statements. We need to protect traditional marriage in the state."
The Catholic Bishops of Wisconsin support the amendment. "A Letter to Catholics on Defining Marriage in Our State Constitution" released by the Wisconsin Bishops in June, is available at www.wisconsin.nasccd.org.
Wispolitics.com facilitated the debates.