On Nov. 7, Wisconsin voters will decide on the most important political decision in recent memory. Voters will be asked whether we want to amend our state's constitution to permanently ban civil unions and same-sex marriages.
I strongly urge you to flip your ballot over—the proposed amendment appears on the back of the ballot—and vote ‘No' on this measure.
In effect, the two-sentence ban would have stark consequences. The first sentence would permanently enshrine discrimination into our state's constitution by outlawing same-sex marriage, despite the fact that state law already prohibits gay marriage.
The second sentence of the proposed amendment would permanently ban civil unions. It would also jeopardize all legal protections for any unmarried couple—whether gay or straight.
Though civil unions are currently denied in Wisconsin, casting a ‘No' vote would allow Wisconsin to maintain an open dialogue on whether to extend the legal protections accompanying marriage to gay families.
A standard marriage license provides over a thousand rights and benefits to married couples—rights and benefits that could be extended to gay families through civil unions. Passing this constitutional ban would permanently foreclose the possibility of extending these rights to gay and lesbian couples.
Furthermore, the ban would greatly harm more than gay and lesbian couples. Its broad language threatens legal protections for all unmarried couples. Such far-reaching consequences have been played out in states that have passed similar amendments.
In Michigan, the attorney general has overturned domestic partner benefits for state employees. In Ohio, judges have dismissed domestic violence cases because their civil unions and marriage ban prohibits legal recognition of any unmarried couples—gay or straight—even under such terrible circumstances.
Simply put, the ban goes too far. It hurts our families and friends, our co-workers and colleagues. It greatly hurts our university. If passed, the ban on civil unions and marriage will cause irreparable harm to UW-Madison.
UW prides itself on academic excellence by virtue of its prized faculty. But the stronghold for this reputation is in jeopardy. If the ban passes, we could see an exodus of world-class professors—leaving not for higher salaries or to escape Wisconsin's cold weather.
Rather, they would leave because they are unable to provide health care and other benefits for their partner. They would leave because this ban is the equivalent of placing a ""gays not welcome here"" sign at Wisconsin's borders and they cannot stand for that.
Rob Carpick, a promising young engineering professor, recently left UW for the University of Pennsylvania for this very reason, and took millions of dollars in private and public funding with him.
Likewise, the UW System Board of Regents, Associated Students of Madison and the University Committee have all publicly opposed the ban. The harm it would cause the university is clear.
UW-Madison political science professor Kathy Cramer Walsh said, ""The campus vote statewide will be a deciding factor."" She's right. Students have the power to make Wisconsin the first state to defeat one of these anti-gay amendments.
We have our entire lives to study history. We have from now until Nov. 7 to make it. Join me. Turn the ballot over and vote ‘No' on Nov. 7.