Domestic Partnerships &
Same-Sex Marriages (SSMs) in Wisconsin
Part 2: 2013-AUG to 2014-JUN:
IL Gov. Quinn urges adoption of SSMs.
Federal lawsuit Wolf v. Walker filed.
Results of Marquette Law School's poll.
2013-AUG-04: Governor Quinn of Illinois urged Wisconsin to grant marriage equality:
Between 2011 and 2013, national public opinion polls indicated that the attitude of American adults towards same-sex marriage had flipped. Later polls consistently showed a plurality of adults supported SSM across the country. Many national polls showed a majority in favor of marriage equality.
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn (D) urged the government of Wisconsin to pass marriage equality legislation. He argued that the four contiguous states of Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois and Wisconsin, should serve as an example of equal rights for the rest of the country. The first two states had already legalized SSM. Illinois followed suit in 2013-NOV. He said:
"We don’t want folks in Iowa or Minnesota having more rights than people in Wisconsin or Illinois. It just isn’t fair. It’s important that we show our country and the world that marriage equality is all about fairness." 1
Marriage became available to same-sex couples in Iowa as a result of a ruling by the state Supreme Court. It became available in MInnesota as a result of a bill passed by the Legislature. Illinois came close to legalizing same-sex marriage when a bill was passed in their Senate. But there were not quite enough votes in the House to pass it when the House entered its summer recess. It was later passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Governor Quinn in 2013-NOV.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (R) responded:
"To change anything in the constitution ...requires two consecutive sessions of the legislature, and ultimately, a vote of the people. I just don't see that as being anything that's going to be addressed anytime soon."
After the 2012 elections, Republicans retained their control of the Wisconsin House. In every state legislature where marriage equality has been debated, essentially all Democratic legislators have voted in favor and almost all Republicans have voted against the bill. There is no significant chance of the Legislature moving towards marriage equality in Wisconsin unless and until the Democrats attain control of both the House and Senate. 1
Even if the Legislature is receptive to the idea of marriage equality, it would probably take at least four or five years to grind through the onerous procedure of repealing the existing amendment to the state Constitution. Only then could the legislature amend the state marriage act to allow same-sex couples to marry. 2
However, an attempt can always be made to implement marriage equality through a lawsuit filed in either the state or federal court system. By late 2013 and into 2014, this had become the preferred method of legalizing SSM within a state. By mid-2014, there was at least one lawsuit attempting to legalize marriage for same-sex couples in every state that had banned same-sex marriage.
2014-FEB: Lawsuit filed in federal District Court to legalize SSM:
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the ACLU of Wisconsin, and the law firm of Mayer Brown filed a lawsuit called "Wolf v. Walker" in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin the hope of bring marriage equality to the state. 3
The lead plaintiffs are Virginia Wolf and Carol Schumacher. They had been legally married out of state. This made them subject to prosecution under a novel Wisconsin law. It forbids state residents who are not eligible to marry in Wisconsin from going to another state where SSM is legal, being married, and then returning to Wisconsin. Unique among the states, Wisconsin has such a law on the books that can result in a 9 month jail sentence and $10,000 fine!
Another plaintiff couple is Roy Badger and Garth Wangemann who have been together for 37 years. After a major operation on his right lung, Wangemann was placed in a medically induced coma for almost a month. His father attempted to invalidate Badger's power of attorney, to take Wangemann off life support, and let him die. Fortunately, before the conflict could be resolved, Wangemann recovered. He said:
"What upset me the most was that after all of our time together, our relationship was not fully recognized by my family and there was a real danger that my wish to give Roy the ability to make decisions about my care could be stripped away. Thankfully, our wishes held in this case. But without the protections that come with marriage, the consequences can literally be a matter of life or death." 4
The two remaining plaintiff couples are: Charvonne Kemp & Marie Carlson; and Judi Trampf & Katy Heyning. They are not married and want to be married in Wisconsin where they live.
Larry Dupuis, legal director of the ACLU of Wisconsin, said:
"These families simply want the security and recognition that only marriage provides. They have built their lives and raised children here. It is wrong for the state to treat these loving and committed couples as second-class citizens, and it is cruel to place them in a catch-22 where they can’t even travel elsewhere to obtain federal protections without their marriage being labeled a crime."
John Knight, staff attorney with the ACLU's Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project said:
"More and more Americans over the past few years accept the idea that same-sex couples and their families shouldn’t be treated differently than other families. It is our hope that Wisconsin will soon join the other 17 states [and the District of Columbia] in granting the freedom to marry." 4
The 17 states have grown to 20 by mid-2014-JUN.
2014-MAY-15 to 18: A poll by Marquette Law School's about marriage and civil unions for same-sex couples:
This poll interviewed 805 randomly selected registered voters in Wisconsin using both landline and cell phone. Using both means of contacting voters is important in order to obtain a representative sample. The poll's margin of error is ±3.5 percentage points.
Marquette had conducted a series of previous polls between 2004 and 2014, dealing with government recognition of same-sex relationships. One polling question gave the poll participants three choices from which to choose their preferred option: same-sex marriage, civil unions and no legal recognition -- treating same-sex couples as mere roommates. When asked about three options in this poll, the results were:
- 49% favored marriage;
- 25% favored civil unions;
- 18% favored no legal recognition.
- 8% didn't know or didn't reply.
They noted that:
"... as public opinion has changed and as court rulings have evolved, the civil union option has become an increasingly unlikely policy. In this poll, we asked voters both the older three-option question and the two-option version phrased:
'Do you favor or oppose allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally'?"
Results in the 2014-MAY poll were:
- 55% favored marriage;
- 37% oppose marriage;
- 6% didn't know.
- 2% didn't reply. 5
These data show that if Referendum 1 were repeated in 2014, it would certainly fail. The voters of Wisconsin have transitioned from heavy opposition towards same-sex marriage to a 18% margin in favor of SSM.
The 2014 results were within a few percentage points of the data from the Washington Post/ABC national poll of 2014-MAR which found 59% in favor, and 34% opposed.
This topic continues in the next essay, which is being written
The following information source was used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still active today.
- Daniel Reynolds, "Illinois Gov. urges Wisconsin to pass marriage equality," The Advocate, 2013-AUG-06, at: http://www.advocate.com/
- Chris Hubbuch, "Wisconsin unlikely to follow Minnesota's lead on gay marriage," La Crosse Tribune, 2013-MAY-14, at: http://www.twincities.com/
- "Wisconsin", Freedom to Marry, as on 2014-JUN-11, at: http://www.freedomtomarry.org/
- "ACLU Files Lawsuit Seeking Freedom to Marry for Wisconsin Couples," American Civil Liberties Union, 2014-FEB-03, at: https://www.aclu.org/
- "Other issues," "New Marquette Law School poll finds Wisconsin Governor's race tied," Marquette University, 2014-MAY-21, at: https://law.marquette.edu/
First posted: 2014-JUN-11
Latest update: 2014-JUN-14
Author: B.A. Robinson