Friday, November 10, 2006

A Letter from Eli

The dust has finally settled on the issue we have worked on for the past year. I’ve been consoled, apologized to, and thanked “even though we didn’t win”, yet I must confess:

I find myself wondering why.

Let me share some facts with you, just in case you hadn’t come across them during the fury of information over the past couple days. Here at UW-Madison, we annihilated the yes vote. On average, in the student wards, people voted No over 85% of the time, and, in some areas, over 90%. Not only did UW vote No, but it did so in record numbers. We blew away past mid-term election year voter numbers by the thousands. To put that into perspective, more people voted on the ban than they did on the Governor’s race. This single issue was so important to people that it brought them out to the polls for that reason alone. History was made last Tuesday.

We did everything we were asked to do and more. Although the statewide results are, indeed, disappointing and saddening, I find myself without regret.

Our opposition has always said that the ban was for the next generation. A simple glance at our turnout and sheer resolve during this past couple weeks shows that… they were right.

Let me explain. We’ve accomplished a colossal feat, one that was never expected to happen. Together, we have rallied around our message of equality and, as the next generation, have shown that our capacity to alter the course of our state can no longer be chalked up to mediocre interest and results, but rather, explosive, election-changing outcomes that politicians must cater to in the future.

The ban has passed, but it will later be amended. We haven’t stopped it now but, had the vote been up to our generation, it wouldn’t have stood a chance. We are saddened by our apparent failure but we must look back at our proven ability to change our world.

If ever there is one thing that I hope all of you take from your experience with Students for a Fair Wisconsin it is that you didn’t let your urge to take an active role in your world end here. For many of you, this was your first experience in politics or civic activism. I know that that is true because it was my first time as well. I just hope what you learned from our sweat, blood, and tears doesn’t fade away in the fog of disappointment and lost hope. If that happens, I know our enemies have truly won.

We look now to the future. The sheer scope of education we brought to the state of Wisconsin about the LGBT community and its issues will assure that it will be granted full rights one day. We shattered our goals and expectations. I just see this as an opportunity to watch my children do the same in a few years.

From the bottom of my heart, I thank you all for what you have done this past year. We have seen terrible weather, hate mail, and direct threats simply because of who we are or whom we were protecting. To that I say adversity forges the greatest leaders. I know that, if this indeed is not our final chapter, the LGBT community and its Allies at the UW-Madison will be a force capable of great change for many years to come.

With honor we served, with valor we fought, and with strength we conquered.

As Always,

Eli Judge

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Election Day Reflections

I'm sure many of you are upset, frustrated, or disappointed with the results of Tuesday's vote to ban gay marriage in Wisconsin, and so, I wanted to say something about the amazing work students did statewide on this vote.

Statewide, many of the counties with the highest percentage of 'no' votes were counties large high student populations: Dane, La Crosse, Eau Claire, Menominee, Winnebago, and Milwaukee. In general, young people overwhelmingly opposed the ban.

I was stationed in Madison as the Campus GOTV Coordinator for the last ten days of the campaign, and I was blown away by the work students did here. In the twelve wards for which students were responsible, we turned out 16,633 votes - a number many thought we'd never reach. Of those, 85 percent voted no. To put that in perspective, only 10,011 students voted in 2002, and in 1998, when Tammy Baldwin got elected by a campus "youth quake," 13,760 students voted. We blew those numbers away.

We turned out a record-breaking number of students to vote on campus. We put all of our time, our hearts, and our passion into this fight, and for that, we should be proud. We did everything we had to do in order to win, and even though things didn't go our way, we should all hold our heads high.

And most importantly, this fight did not end on Tuesday. While we suffered a significant setback, I'm confident that if we keep working, one day our LGBT friends, family members, and neighbors will wake up to a truly fair Wisconsin. Until then, keep fighting!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

10,000

A while back, we did a round-up of all the different facebook groups supporting Students for a Fair Wisconsin.

Sometime yesterday morning, before 10:00am, our main group - A Fair Wisconsin Votes No! - hit 10,000 members. That's right, we officially have at least 10,000 people who are not only voting 'No' on November 7, but also took the time out to join a group on facebook.

We're still about 2,500 members short of being listed among facebook's top 25 campaign issues (on all of facebook), but we imagine we must be somewhere close, which is pretty amazing.

(Oh, and if you're wondering, the main opposition group - A Moral Wisconsin Votes YES - stands at just over 600 members. By my calculation, our support among people who have taken a clear stance on facebook is around 94 percent.)

Note: this post also appears on Fair Wisconsin's No on the Amendment blog.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

A Letter in a Bottle

Yesterday, David Lapidus, a respected, outspoken conservative student at UW-Madison, wrote an entry on his blog, Letters in Bottles, describing why he is voting 'No' on November 7. You may remember David from Students for a Fair Wisconsin's 'Voices for No' Campaign at UW-Madison earlier this semester.

He writes that he supports civil unions for gay and lesbian couples:
In short they are a very useful method to extend legal privileges to non-heterosexual couples that better ensure the individual's ability to discover their philosophical preferences and act upon them within a homosexual relationship and/or as a homosexual foster parent.
David also criticizes the placement of this ban and other "social values" issues on the ballot, saying that they distract from the real issues facing our society and nation:
[the current debate on this proposed amendment] easily distracts the political discourse from finding solutions to the very issues that allow us the opportunity to passionately discuss such "social values" at all (i.e., economics, foreign policy, national security, fiscal policy, civil liberties, etc.)
You can read David's thoughtful entry on the issue in its entirety here.

Note: this post also appears on Fair Wisconsin's No on the Amendment Blog.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Why Our Grandmothers Are Voting No

I did it. I made the phone call, scurried across Capitol Square in Madison to the City Clerk's office, and froze my nose off. I voted today.

As I went into the office, I was greeted by a warm smile and the question of the day. "Are you registered to vote in the city of Madison?" she asked. "Yes, I am, ma'am." She handed me a few pieces of paper to sign, an envelope, my ballot, and the black magic marker.

When I took my seat, I noticed an elderly lady also voting today via absentee ballot. She looked a lot like my grandmother, with silver-grey hair and a large overcoat covering her petite frame. As I glanced over at her, I was praying she would vote no, just as I have been praying for the entire state of Wisconsin to vote no for several months now. Here was a woman who had lived much longer than I have, seen much more than I've seen, and experienced much more than I have. She had lived through a time when being unmarried was not acceptable by most, and being gay not openly talked about. Yet today, we were both equals at the polling booth, despite our ages and backgrounds.

By the swipe of her pen, she could cast a vote that would change the way we treat unmarried couples - gay or straight - by denying hospital visitation rights, healthcare benefits, and the right to make medical decisions for loved ones. Or she could help us defeat the ban designed to discriminate against gays and lesbians yet would prove to be far more sweeping if passed.

She folded up her ballot and turned toward me. To my surprise, she wore a Fair Wisconsin button. I hadn't noticed it before. Surely, she had voted no.

This brings me back to my own grandmother. Only a few short weeks ago, I decided it was time to set the record straight. On my grandma's 74th birthday, I drove down to Janesville to surprise her. Since she thought I was still in Arizona at school, she definitely was quite shocked that I was back home. And the questions immediately began. Where are you living? What are you doing? Who are you working for? As my hands shook, I asked my grandma to sit down. "I have something to tell you," I said.

Right then, I came out to my grandma. She was the last family member to find out, and I really wasn't sure how she was going to take it. I told her I was working for Fair Wisconsin, and I was trying to defeat the ban on civil unions and marriage for gay and lesbian couples in our state. As I searched for answers in her expressions, one thing became clear to me. I underestimated my grandma - she was overjoyed that I finally told her and even began asking about my dating life!

And just as I have been doing with all of my campuses in Greater Wisconsin, I asked my grandma to stand with us and vote no. Now, my grandma is a smart woman, but she doesn't know politics. She's not sure who is running against Gov. Doyle in this year's election, she has no clue who Kathleen Falk or JB Van Hollen are, and if asked about Herb Kohl, I'm confident she would ask me if he owns Kohl's Foods down the street from us. Yet one thing is for sure, she pledges to me to vote no - the first time she will have ever voted in her 74 years.

This is a symbol of the real impact that this amendment would have on our lives, and how it will undoubtedly affect our loves ones. While all I know about the elderly woman I sat with earlier today is that she's from "liberal" Madison, my grandmother surely is not and I guarantee I am the only gay person she knows. Yet because this amendment will have a real impact on all of us and our neighbors, these two women and I all are voting early, and we're voting for fairness. I urge you all to do so as well.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

In the Campus Papers

Last Thursday, the Marquette Tribune published a fantastic viewpoint written by a Catholic student whose faith is guiding him to vote no on November 7. In his column, Paul Hinze writes that Catholics have access to God's revelation through three avenues: Scripture, the Church, and personal revelation through an informed conscience. His informed conscience leads him to disagree with various passages of the Bible (which he says have been used just as easily to justify things like racism and sexism that we now agree is wrong):

It is Catholic Church teaching, which strongly emphasizes the obligation to follow an informed conscience, that advises me here. As paradoxical as it may sound, my obligation to the Catholic Church is to disagree with the bishops' teaching in the interest of fostering further reflection and discussion.

He concludes his piece by writing that our growing awareness of homosexual members of our community "gives us new opportunities to learn how God means for us to live together," and says:

We are at a point in history — a point that has come before with issues of race and gender — where the identity of a group of individuals is becoming clear, but their full participation in our community is yet to be attained. Let us not cut off this process with a premature ban, but rather join them at the table as Jesus did and seek the wisdom of God together.

Students for a Fair Wisconsin also received our first campus editorial board endorsement for the fall semester from the Advance-Titan at UW-Oshkosh. They call on voters to be smart and do what is best for Wisconsin:

On Nov. 7, your choice on the ballot doesn’t have to be one between “fair” or “moral.” In order to keep the UW System and other businesses competitive, a smart Wisconsin should vote “no.”

The Daily Carindal editorial board also wrote an editorial supporting the UW System Board of Regents for their opposition to the ban.

Finally, we continue to have letters to the editor published, including this one in the Badger Herald, this one in the Advance-Titan, and one in the UW-River Falls Student Voice.

Note: this post also appears on Fair Wisconsin's No on the Amendment Blog.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Greater Wisconsin Campuses Gaining Momentum

As I sit here in Fair Wisconsin's field office in Eau Claire, I'd like to give you a quick update of our Greater Wisconsin campuses. We have a strong and aggressive field campaign statewide, and coupled with our university and student support, we are reaching more people than we thought possible.

At UW-La Crosse, for instance, our Students for a Fair Wisconsin chapter is dropping thousands of lit pieces each week. In addition to our regular chalkings, volunteer meetings, and pledge-collecting, we are also leading the forces by canvassing our students and neighbors.

UW-Stevens Point continues to amaze everyone in Madison. With 65 people at their kickoff just a few weeks ago, they're still 40 members strong at volunteer meetings. We've been featured on weekly radio programs, reaching both students and community members, and the student organizers are completely committed to our efforts and on message!

Our students at UW-River Falls have some unique challenges ahead of them, but we are going strong! Since the university is on the edge of Wisconsin's border with Minnesota, we're finding many students are worried about losing their Minnesota citizenship if they choose to vote here. Good news, everyone, that won't happen! You don't need to get a Wisconsin driver's license to vote, and you'll still be able to call yourself a Minnesotan. Simply go to the State Elections Board website for more details. That goes for everyone at UW-Stout as well...

Speaking of UW-Stout, we're very excited to start canvassing and speaking with students one-on-one soon. That's because we've noticed some opposition on campus. We have found just yesterday that College Republicans were handing out pieces of wedding cake with some "Vote YES for the Federal Marriage Amendment on Nov. 7" literature. Sorry to tell you, kids, but the Federal Marriage Amendment was defeated some time ago. We're talking about the ban on civil unions and marriage in our state.



UW-Oshkosh has built a solid - and I'm talking SOLID - coalition of volunteers and organizations on their campus. If they're not canvassing, dropping lit, or chalking, you can probably find them either planning A Forum of Faith Perspectives on the Amendment (Oct. 23, 7pm-8:30pm, Reeve Union, Rm 227 C) or on the phones calling up students for support! And this is very good news since it's my largest campus...

And finally, UW-Eau Claire is picking up steam - just when I arrive in town! We are starting our first canvass this week, tabling, dropping lit, and starting some phone banks soon. We have thousands of houses to knock on between now and Nov. 7, and we need all the help we can get!

The student organizers at the Greater Wisconsin campuses are, by far, one in a million. It's difficult to ask someone to give up their lives for ten weeks prior to a mid-term election, and that's exactly what they did. If you, or someone you know, goes to any of these schools, simply email us at students@fairwisconsin.com and we can get you plugged into all of our volunteer opportunities.