Friday, September 22, 2006

A Note on Voting

Lately, we've been getting a lot of questions about how to vote no on November 7: I'm from New Jersey, can I vote in Wisconsin? Should I vote at my school or in my hometown? I'm not registered to vote, how do I register? I'm currently attending school in Minnesota, can I still vote in Wisconsin? etc.

Lucky for us, former Madison mayor Paul Soglin posted an incredibly instructive entry to his blog about voter registration and voting absentee in Wisconsin, including when and where to register, how to vote absentee, and much more. And of course, if you have any unanswered questions, you can always email us.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Facebook Round-up

As this recent article in the Advance-Titan at UW-Oshkosh demonstrates, Facebook has become a useful and almost ubiquitous tool when it comes to organizing on college campuses. With that in mind, I spent some time poking around Facebook to see where we stand. (Unfortunately, Facebook only allows me to search the school tied to my account, so I can only report on what I've found at UW-Madison. If you're reading from another school, feel free to share what your school has in the comments section.)

A Fair Wisconsin Votes No! is our statewide election-issue group, and is therefore our largest. It's growing by the minute and, as I write this, just reached 3,501 members. There is also A Fair Wisconsin Votes No! (Minnesota Chapter) for those fair-minded Wisconsinites attending school in Minnesota.

Students for a Fair Wisconsin is the "official" Facebook-group version of Students for a Fair Wisconsin: UW-Madison Chapter. These are The Students for a Fair Wisconsin at UW-Madison - the ones that make everything happen on campus. It currently has 336 active members.

We also have a group called I'm voting No on the amendment... which asks members to finish the sentence: "I'm voting no on the ban because..."

There are a couple classic groups at UW-Madison: the always absurd Gay Marriage Killed the Dinosaurs (Wisconsin Chapter) and the somewhat vulgar Against Gay Marriage? Then Don't Get One and Shut the Fuck Up!.

And let's not forget my favorite spin-off: Sellery Residents for a Fair Wisconsin. I hope we'll see a lot more groups like this soon!

Finally, our round-up would not be complete without checking into our opposition. Though we disagree with their title, they've also registered a statewide election-issue group: A Moral Wisconsin Votes YES. Unfortunately, they currently have 268 active members.

Our opposition at UW-Madison is much milder: Protect the sanctity of marriage, vote yes November 7th!, which has merely three members, and Students for an Unfair WI (what?), which is now up to six.

The sheer number of people in our groups (and their rate of growth) show just how important this issue has become on campus. Students are energized and committed to defeating the ban, and with their frequent updates, these groups are a great way to get involved. Together, we can make history on November 7!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Kicking Off Around Wisonsin

Just as we kicked off here in Madison slightly more than a week ago, Students for a Fair Wisconsin groups have been kicking off around the state. Andrew Moe, who wrote for us last week, has been working hard to help organize statewide campuses outside of the Madison and Milwaukee areas. Last week, groups he has been working with held kickoffs in Oshkosh, La Crosse, Whitewater, River Falls and Eau Claire. And soon, they will be kicking off at Stevens Point and Stout. Here are a few highlights from last week’s kickoffs in Oshkosh and La Crosse:

UW-La Crosse: Over 35 people, including 23 new volunteers, showed up. Everyone was excited to learn about the ban and how they could get involved to make sure students at La Crosse vote no on November 7. And they hit the ground running by planning to table at the Cartwright Center and to drop lit in the classrooms.

Oshkosh KickoffUW-Oshkosh: Over 40 people came to learn more about defeating the ban this November. After a mini speakers training from field organizer Jeff Broxmeyer and hearing why County Supervisor Jef Hall opposes the ban, they planned tabling events at Reeve Union, along with lit drops and chalking around the UW-Oshkosh campus.

Update (19 September 2006 at 2:00pm): In the statewide student activity round-up, I forgot to include UW-Platteville, where a lot of great things have been going on. Coleman, a field organizer for Fair Wisconsin in the area, has an update here.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Associated Students of Madison

Yesterday something happened at the University of Wisconsin that doesn't happen very often: ASM, our student government, passsed a resolution expressing its opposition to the gay marriage and civil unions ban that will be voted on this November. It is only the third time ASM has taken a stance on a political issue.

Their stance simply confirms how important this issue is to Wisconsin students and the widespread negative effects the ban could have if it passes. If this ban passes, it would severely limit the ability of every university in Wisconsin to recruit and retain the most talented students, faculty and staff. Students in Wisconsin are energized and committed to defeating this ban on civil unions and marriage come November, and ASM's resolution is just one more sign of that committment.

The Badger Herald
and The Daily Cardinal have coverage (here and here).

Monday, September 11, 2006

Facts vs. Fear

This morning, we ran across a column written by Emily Hartwig for the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire student newspaper, The Spectator, in favor of the constitutional amendment banning civil unions and gay marriage.

At first, I was outraged. I have been on the job as the Statewide Campus Coordinator for Fair Wisconsin - working with UW schools outside of the Madison and Milwaukee areas - for about three weeks now, and this is the first sign of support for the ban on these campuses. Of course, I know some students are going to vote for the ban and some may even organize efforts to oppose us, yet this was the first time opposition was hitting home, on my turf.

I challenge you to try and make your way through the convoluted and often incoherent arguments being made, touching on a range of issues, from voting for precedence because 20 other states have passed similar discriminatory amendments, to a religiously flawed argument against fairness. Here is an excerpt from the article that I'd like to share with you:

We have a clear-cut choice. Vote yes and agree with 20 other states in clarifying traditional marriage.

Or vote no and open the floodgates for challenges to current marriage laws.

Though Wisconsin statutes refer to husband and wife when discussing marriage, nowhere does it define these terms as man and woman. We need to clarify this so future lawsuits don't weaken our interpretation of the law.

Right now, many see this amendment as an attack on same-sex partnerships. But it's actually just what it is titled - a marriage protection amendment.

Now, I can appreciate educating students when these arguments are made. That's probably why my anger after initially reading the article turned into a sense of hope - an opportunity to have a discussion with students on our campuses about the far-reaching consequences this kind of ban will impose.

Hartwig argues that we have a choice. That, for a fact, is true. We have a choice - but the options she presents are skewed. Insisting that Wisconsin should follow the lead of other states - states that are just now realizing the harmful effects of their amendments - is a mistake. In Ohio, for instance, domestic violence cases are being dismissed because a relationship between a woman and her abusive boyfriend is "substantially similar to marriage" - a relationship that is not recognized by the state following its own constitutional amendment. Is this the kind of precedent we are willing to follow? Flawed policy passed by the legislature and voters because they didn't realize what the amendment was actually going to do?

Hartwig is also right in claiming that many see this amendment as an attack on same-sex partnerships. It most certainly is. But it's also an attack on our unmarried, straight friends, affecting basic rights such as health care, medical decision-making, and already-established domestic partnership benefits. Wisconsin students can clearly see this isn't about protecting marriage. If it were about protecting marriage, we would see proponents of the ban trying to change the laws governing divorce and separation. This is about writing discrimination into our constitution against those who choose not to get married - or are barred from getting married - and prohibit those people from receiving the same benefits, rights, and privileges that are offered to married partners.

And creating a social "fear" of what may happen if we don't act now to protect marriage is a strategy that those on the other side of this debate are using, and we as students need to stand together to clarify this so-called marriage amendment. We are not instilling fear - we are simply giving the facts.

Friday, September 08, 2006

One Big Step

As you surely know by now, the UW-Madison Chapter of Students for a Fair Wisconsin held their kickoff last night on the Madison campus. And it was a resounding success. Over 350 students came to show their opposition to the proposed ban of gay marriage and civil unions and to learn more about how to get involved with the campaign on campus. That's right: we filled the room!


The Students for a Fair Wisconsin.

At the meeting, Representative Mark Pocan addressed the crowd, stressing the importance of the student vote in defeating the ban. He called on students to make sure their voices were heard by informing their peers about the ban and making sure every student gets out to vote.

After Pocan spoke, Fair Wisconsin Campaign Manager Mike Tate took the stage to motivate students to get involved. He asked the students to picture 15 years from now, when they are talking to their children about the ban. He asked everyone in the audience to think about that day, and whether they would be able to tell their children that they sat on their couches, eating pizza and drinking beer, or whether they would be able to say they took a stand, got involved, and sent a message to this state and this nation that we will not tolerate discrimination.

Campaign Manager, Mike Tate

Campaign Manager Mike Tate energizes the crowd.

The meeting concluded with pizza and with handing out window signs to the students in attendance. (And if you happen to have been in attendence, and didn't get a sign - we ran out - expect an email from us soon about where and when you'll be able to get one.)


Students pick up window signs as they leave the meeting.

Finally, the Daily Cardinal also has a piece about the event, and Fair Wisconsin has more photos on their blog.

As we, and others, have been saying all along: students have the power to make sure this ban doesn't pass. Last night, we took one big step in showing why.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The 11th Hour

In slightly less than eleven hours, Students for a Fair Wisconsin will officially kick off in Madison. I say officially, because we've been quite busy with our pre-kickoff activities - lit drops, chalkings, tablings, and columns in the campus papers (here and here) - and it seems like we've practically kicked off already. It won't be much longer now.

But for now, we have a new student website! And if you're looking for the Madison chapter, we are no longer located here, but are now here. Visit our events page, too, to see what's happening on your campus.

Oh, and if you're in Madison, don't forget: Students for a Fair Wisconsin, tonight, 7:30 pm in 3650 Humanities. Be there, or ... you know the rest.