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Madison Considers Oath of Office Option to Support Gay Rights

MadisonMost residents of Madison, Wisconsin did not agree with the rest of the state when they passed an amendment to the state constitution banning gay marriage last November. In fact, Madison residents voted 2-1 against the ban, and now some of them want to make their disagreement known.

A proposal is being floated to the city council which would allow elected officials to voice their dissent while taking their oath of office:

"Officials would have the option of signing a statement saying they took the oath under protest because the amendment 'besmirches our constitution.' They would pledge to fight to overturn the amendment and to minimize its impact."

Proponents of the plan say it would allow gays and lesbians and those supporting gay rights able to serve with "a clear conscience". Opponents of the plan say it would allow public officials to "pick and choose" the causes they wanted to support.

Madison's mayor, Dave Cieslewicz, says he supports the plan because for the first time in history, a constitutional amendment took rights away from citizens rather than adding them.

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  1. Right there, a little bit of my Wisconsin pride just returned. Thanks, Mayor Cieslewicz (for anyone who's wondering, it's pronounced chez-LEV-itch). The radio ads are always calling him and his buddies "Madison liberals", like Hollywood liberals. Madison is one of the most liberal cities in America. God love it.

    The marriage amendment fight in Wisconsin was bitter, protracted, and awful. I did a report on it for WNUR radio news immediately before the election. One of the things I found out is that Fair Wisconsin, the group which worked to defeat the amendment, raised and spent around $3 million on various ad campaigns and other works. Meanwhile, Vote Yes for Marriage spent $159,000 on one TV ad, which they had promised they wouldn't run, and which was awful anyway. They won by a 60/40 margin.

    The night of the election, I was torn in two. On the one hand, everything was telling me I should be ecstatic - the Democrats had taken control of the House, and it was looking more and more like the Senate would become ours as well. But Wisconsin had hurt me, in a way, and even though we had a lot of passionate support, we still lost - by a lot.

    Young Wisconsinites were overwhelmingly against the amendment. Young Wisconsinites do not vote in large numbers. In addition, Vote Yes ran a grassroots misinformation campaign and, against all common sense, convinced voters that failing to pass the amendment would change the law to allow gay marriage. Apparently said voters missed the fact that the amendment did not exist before, and therefore not enacting it would not change anything. The woman I interviewed used the phrase "activist judges" a lot to explain how that one worked.

    Even worse, other of my "friends" said they voted yes because they were afraid polygamy, pedophilia and bestiality would become legal if they did not. This is a double whammy - not only did they believe that they had to pass a law to keep from changing anything, but they think gay people are no better than people who have sex with children or animals.

    Finally, after the election, even supposed supporters - "No" voters - told us to shut up and stop whining, that it was over and there was nothing to be done and we should just let it go. Easy for them to say. They can still get married.

    My goodness! That was one long "comment", when all I really wanted to say was that I dig this protest oath business. Only in Madison could this happen, of course, but like I said - God love it.

    Posted by: Thor | Jan 15, 2007 3:42:21 PM


  2. ... I'm also gratified to see that you linked to WFRV, one of my own former local news stations. W00t, Fox Valley.

    Posted by: Thor | Jan 15, 2007 3:44:01 PM


  3. There was a large movement on the University of Wisconsin campus to vote no. Some 80-85% of the student population, which did turn out in large numbers this year because of the amendment, voted no.

    Madison really is a very gay-friendly location, and because of amendments like this, it gets a bad rep.

    Honestly... the Midwest has some fairly socially liberal places: Madison, Minneapolis, Ann Arbor, and Chicagoland.

    Posted by: Sean | Jan 15, 2007 3:47:41 PM


  4. Mad-Madison! They should just pass a resolution instead of this bizarre ritual.

    As with most states that passed marriage anti-gay amendments, the Wis. populi was willing to believe whatever it took to ban gay marriage. If they had been told we'd be invaded by aliens if gay marriage came to pass they would have voted for the ban. It doesn't take much on these sensitive social issue to get a populist vote going. State constitutional amendments by referendum should only pass with super-majority voting.

    Posted by: anon | Jan 15, 2007 8:05:10 PM


  5. The same thing happened in VA... The 51st State of Northern VA (the DC suburbs, comprising several VA counties and cities)as well as Charlottesville and the U of VA area voted against a similar ban --- unlike the state of VA.
    Now we just need leaders to take a stand as they did in Madison.

    Posted by: k | Jan 15, 2007 11:54:26 PM


  6. If it makes these elected officials sleep better at night, fine.
    Otherwise, blah, blah, blah....It gets tiring.

    Posted by: Stephen | Jan 16, 2007 7:27:45 AM


  7. "Opponents of the plan say it would allow public officials to "pick and choose" the causes they wanted to support."

    Huh? This is bad/unusual how?

    Posted by: burnssuit | Jan 16, 2007 9:21:26 AM


  8. It does lead one to wonder if a move like this may set a potentially dangerous precedent to other, less tolerant districts that they too can pick and choose.

    However, a constitutional ban on marriage is stupid for a myriad number of reasons. This is whether it's interracial, gay or straight. Passing a law is one thing, a Constitutional ban is a whole other ballpark, if you ask me. But we can't be surprised at the level of misinformation surrounding it. We as humans (and especially as forever distracted Americans) tend to go with the negative in times of uncertainty. Just listen to some of the bulls*it that's getting spouted about Hispanics in this country now that we have a public immigration discourse. Listen to basically anything that was said about Muslims post-911. Ignorance always leans bad and it's just shameful that these bigoted groups exploit this fact for their own gain. Why is it that the majority of the public who decades ago would've done the same to ban interracial marriage now couldn't give a rat's arse? They know better, despite what Focus On The Ignorance (or whatever they're called) says. This is no excuse, I know.

    But everytime I hear a hetero go, "I have a gay uncle/friend/brother..." it makes me smile on the inside. Because the more the general public "knows", the less powerful the bigots' manipulations will be.

    I also agree that amendments should be difficult to make, not simple. If anything, this rash of rights-barring amendments proves this. It should be just as trying to amend the state Constitutions as it is the Federal.

    Posted by: Derrick | Jan 16, 2007 10:38:52 AM


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