Thursday, October 26, 2006


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 and we can get you plugged into all of our volunteer opportunities.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Students for a Fair Wisconsin in the News

Students for a Fair Wisconsin received a lot of fantastic media coverage again last week, due in part to the UW Board of Regents coming out against the ban. Both the Badger Herald (here, here and here) and the Daily Cardinal (here and here) provided coverage of the decision. Bassey Etim applauds the Board of Regents' decision in a column in the Badger Herald, writing:

The marriage amendment is simply bad business for UW schools and hurts our ability to compete with other university systems.

Further, he explains why our opposition (despite broad support for Fair Wisconsin from people of all walks of life) tends to paint the issue along partisan lines:

[State Representatives Steve] Nass and [Mark] Gundrum change the issue from gay marriage to Doyle's politics because they have no credible evidence to back up their theory that gay marriage would be so detrimental to our society that a ban must be written into our state’s Constitution. The regents took a risk by formulating an official policy because gubernatorial candidate Mark Green has expressed his distaste with a number of university policies and could inflame anti-UW sentiment across the state. Nonetheless, UW has a duty to stand by its faculty, especially when regressive legislation like this has already resulted in the loss of quality instructors. UW’s responsibility goes beyond political impact.

The Daily Cardinal also published a report on the significance of the student vote. UW-Madison Professor Joe Elder explained:

This amendment would be crushingly defeated with the students I deal with. For this group, gay marriage is not a problem. The overwhelming sense I get from the class is, what's the big deal?

Finally, reports on debates held at UW-Madison, UW-Oshkosh, UW-Platteville, and Marquette appeared in campus papers. And we also had letters to the editor published in the Badger Herald and the UW-River Falls Student Voice.

The coverage of students working against the ban has been widespread and overwhelmingly shows that students are doing what it will take to make a difference on November 7.

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

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Voices for No (Part Two)

Today was a big day for the Madison Chapter of Students for a Fair Wisconsin. As part of our "Voices for No" campaign this week, we dropped 10,000 pieces of lit on both Wednesday and Thursday morning and set up a display on Thursday on Bascom Hill:

Banner on Bascom Hill

Students for a Fair Wisconsin Banner on Bascom Hill.

And as promised, here are the final six voices for no:

Tonya Neumann
"I'm voting no on November 7th because the greatest commandment of my faith is 'Love thy neighbor as thyself.' The teachings of Jesus Christ tell us to love and accept each other, not to judge or discriminate."

-Tonya Neumann, sophomore

David Lapidus
"I'm voting no on November 7th because the amendment bans civil unions, a practical, moral and legal alternative to marriage, and that goes too far."

-David Lapidus, active conservative on campus and blogger at Letters in Bottles

Mingwei Huang
"I'm voting no on November 7th because I believe in the liberation of all oppressed peoples."

-Mingwei Huang, junior

Will Endres
"I'm voting no on November 7th because I believe that everyone deserves the right to be happy."

-Will Endres, freshman

Amanda Bychinski
"I'm voting no on November 7th because I don't believe the government should intrude into the personal lives of its citizens."

-Amanda Bychinski, sophomore

Eli Judge
"I'm voting no on November 7th because I don't want my adopted home state to abandon its history of leadership. In the civil rights battle of our generation, I want my voice to be heard."

-Eli Judge, chair of Students for a Fair Wisconsin

Earlier today, I was stopped by a student who said to me: "Thanks for doing this. It's so great that you guys emphasized real faces and the voices of real people this week." Our "Voices for No" campaign has been quite successful in showing the diverse backgrounds and motivations of taking a stand on this issue, and it shows that we will make history on Election Day.

Bascom Hill Display

Students reading voices for no between classes.

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

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Voices for No (Part One)

As we mentioned here yesterday, this week is "Voices for No" week for the Madison Chapter of Students for a Fair Wisconsin. We asked a bunch of people to finish the sentence "I'm voting no on November 7th because..." and then we picked twelve of our favorites to put on our literature this week. Below are six of our twelve voices, and we'll post the other six tomorrow.

Dylan Rath
"I'm voting no on November 7th because if the ban passes, more of UW's oustanding professors will leave because they will never receive partnership benefits."

-Dylan Rath, Chair of ASM

Ginnie Kamp
"I'm voting no on November 7th because I believe it's wrong to place anyone's life or family up for a vote."

-Ginnie Kamp, junior

Patrick Elliott
"I'm voting no on November 7th because it's appalling to use a constitutional amendment to deny rights. Wisconsin's Constitution is meant to protect personal freedoms."

-Patrick Elliott, first-year law student

Jhani Miller
"I'm voting no on November 7th not because I'm some liberal budding politician or a rainbow warrior. Rather, I'm voting no because I'm merely a girl that, just like anyone else, wishes to be with the one I love."

-Jhani Miller, sophomore

Eli Lewien
"I'm voting no on November 7th because this is more than a partisan issue; it's an issue of right and wrong. Writing discrimination into Wisconsin's Constitution is wrong, and students of all political beliefs understand that."

-Eli Lewien, Chair of College Democrats of Madison

Magdalena Cerrina
"I'm voting no on November 7th because I think that all loving families should be valued, regardless of gender."

-Magdalena Cerrina, freshman

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

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Live-Blogging the Debate

In case you didn't hear, The Federalist Society at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School sponsored a debate tonight on the proposed ban on gay marriage and civil unions. University of Wisconsin-Madison Political Science Professor Howard Schweber argued the "no" side, while Alliance Defense Fund Attorney Jordan Lorence argued the "yes" side.

We decided to live-blog tonight's debate.

Professor Schweber focused on the abstract standard of legitimate state purpose, an judicial ruling on the Fourteenth Amendment that requires a state to justify any restrictions it makes on the liberties of an individual. He also focused on the fact that there is no conclusive proof that gay marriage poses a threat to heterosexual marriage.

Mr. Lorence, on the other hand, focused on the historically determined right of the government to regulate marriage law (stemming mainly from previous regulations placed with respect to polygamy), and repeatedly argued that this ban was constituionally justifiable and necessary to protect marriage.

A summary of their remarks follows:

7:05 pm: The debate begins with a brief history of the proposed ban and the ground rules for the debate. Professor Schweber was first to give his fifteen-minute opening statement.

7:08 pm: Professor Schweber describes the relative youth of our Constitution, and he mentions that it was only recently, in Lawrence v. Texas, that a freedom from the regulation of our intimate relationships was granted under the Fourteenth Amendment.

7:13 pm: Professor Schweber's first argument points out that just because something has been done a certain way for a long time, it is not necessarily therefore justified. He points out slavery as one example, and says "it can never be enough that just because we've done something for a long time, it is legally and constitutionally justifiable."

7:15 pm: Professor Schweber's second argument is that the assertion "religion disapproves of gay marriage" does not constitutionally warrant outlawing gay marriage. He points out that there are a number of points where our laws overlap with religion, but that by itself, the fact that a church holds a particular stance, does not justify that stance constitutionally.

7:17 pm: Professor Schweber's third, and "most important," argument relies on anti-denigration. He says that it does not constitute a legitimate state purpose to say "we don't like your kind" to a particular group of citizens.

7:20 pm: Professor Schweber begins to anticipate his opponent's argument by saying that he "doesn't see how gay marriage poses a threat to heterosexual marriage." He asks, "why is this, uniquely, the only group of people whose marriage would be a threat to heterosexual marriage when no other groups's marriage poses a threat?" And he points out: "Marriage does not crumble whenever you allow someone else to get married."

7:23 pm: Professor Schweber wraps up his argument by discussing the claim that children are better off raised in a household of two parents of the opposite sex. His most compelling reply to this argument is: "there is one thing you know for certain about a child in a household with same-sex parents: that child is wanted. And I think that weighs heavily."

7:25 pm: Mr. Jordan Lorence begins his opening remarks by calling on everyone in the audience to vote yes on the proposed ban.

7:30 pm: Mr. Lorence begins his argument describing the history of polygamy in Utah to begin to answer the question of whether the government holds the authority to regulate marriage as an institution. From when Congress and the Supreme Court required polygamy to be outlawed in each new state constitution as a condition of statehood, he argues that the government does possess that authority.

7:33 pm: Mr. Lorence's first argument is that constitutional amendments banning gay marriage and civil unions are justifiable on the grounds that they take the definition of marriage out of a "simple majority" of the justices in the Supreme Court of any state and place it back in the hands of the legislature - that is, the people.

7:35 pm: Mr. Lorence describes marriage as something beyond legal rights and benefits. He also claims that arguments about benefits are simply "a red herring issue" and that rights and benefits (like the ability to make vital healthcare decisions on behalf of another) can be secured through other legal means (like powers of attorney). Mr. Lorence also argues that the best way - according to studies and historical evidence - to raise children is with one mother and one father.

7:39 pm: Mr. Lorence discusses marriage law throughout the United States saying that the laws never single out a group saying that "anyone can get married except that group." He says, rather, that the law excludes an individual from marrying disparate groups - "I cannot get married to someone underage, to a close relative, to someone of a same-sex" - and outside that group one can marry any person. He then claims that the individual doesn't have a right to ask for the group one can marry to be redefined according to one's personal preference.

7:43 pm: Mr. Lorence brings up the case Loving v. Virginia, which overturned a Virginia law that didn't allow whites to marry interracially, claiming that this example is different than the current debate because "it didn't preclude an Asian-American, for example, from marrying an African-American - that is, it only excluded one group." He concludes by saying that he believes the government's definition of marriage to exclude polygamy is a better analogy for the current debate.

7:45 pm: Professor Schweber begins his rebuttal by saying that the fundamental question isn't whether gay marriage should be legalized, but rather, whether the states have a right to exclude gay marriage. He cites the fundamental premise of the Fourteenth Amendment - that the state must justify its actions - as proof of this lack of justification. He says that when a state is allowed to categorically exclude certain rights, you "have a totalitarian state."

7:48 pm: Professor Schweber revisits his point about families, saying that this would be the first instance where two people would be told (and wrongly) that they can't get married by virtue of the fact that they're not the best situation in which to raise children. Moreover, he claims that marriage is about benefits - "it is a benefit," he says - and that children of same-sex marriage would "most certainly be better off if their parents can get married."

7:52 pm: Professor Schweber finishes by claiming that the proposed ban on gay marriage is exactly the issue confronted in Loving v. Virginia, claiming that the central reason the original Virginia law was struck down was that the state couldn't articulate a justification for outlawing interracial marriage.

7:54 pm: The debate was now opened for questions, the first of which was directed to Mr. Lorence: does outlawing a status substantially similar to marriage present a trap where people in an unmarried domestic relationship - like the situation in Ohio where domestic violence cases are being thrown out - could suffer in unanticipated ways?

7:56 pm: Mr. Lorence replies by citing the statute as the problem, because it uses the words "spouse-like." He said the statute would be fine if the criterion for domestic violence was two people living in the same household rather than living in a spouse-like relationship. Likewise, he claims, domestic partnership benefits could remain so long as the criteria was that they could only be shared with one person, rather than a domestic or life-long partner.

7:59 pm: Professor Schweber rebuts by asking whether the phrase "substantially similar" applies to the relationship or the benefits being provided. He claims that it is possible to read the second sentence to outlaw benefits substantially similar to those offered by marriage, rather than outlawing benefits for people in relationships substantially similar to marriage.

8:00 pm: Anne McClintock asks Mr. Lorence to clarify why a man and woman with no desire to have children would have a legal right to marriage (based on the fact that he had argued that the principal purpose of marriage and criterion for getting married would be to raise children) where it would seem that a same-sex couple wanting to raise children ought to have that legal right and an opposite-sex couple not wanting to raise children (or incapable of having) ought not.

8:02 pm: Mr. Lorence replies by attacking the second part of the question, arguing that it would be invasive to require a fertility test in order to get married. Further, he claims that the vast majority (if not all) children are produced by heterosexual activity, and that the question of the same-sex couple does not necessarily apply. He concludes by adding that he believes Professor Schweber's argument about legitimate state purpose is an overstatement.

8:05 pm: Professor Schweber replies to Mr. Lorence's argument by questioning why we allow so many relationships that are potentially quite harmful to children, and then say that a same-sex couple raising children is less than ideal and therefore ought to be outlawed. Professor Schweber emphasizes that this reasoning is flawed because the evidence for such an argument is meaningless and misguided.

8:08 pm: Mr. Lorence rebuts Professor Schweber's argument by stating that the legitimate state purpose standard makes it impossible for us to say no to anything, including polygamy. He claims that this standard allows anybody to require the government to redefine marriage to fit their own personal purpose.

8:11 pm: The next question asks how a yes vote can be justified on the grounds that it keeps the issue in the hands of the people when this particular ban would take the issue out of the hands of any future legislature by outlawing any laws that provide benefits substantially similar to marriage.

8:13 pm: Mr. Lorence replies that the provision may not be that strong in the long-run - that future legislatures could potentially go through the amendment process to overturn the ban. He then concedes that a narrower amendment could be drafted, but that he supports a yes vote on our ban because it protects the valuable institution of marriage.

8:15 pm: Professor Schweber replies that he agrees that marriage is a valuable and essential institution, but that he just doesn't see how it's in peril, as Mr. Lorence repeatedly claimed.

Those were the final remarks of the debate. In my own particularly partial opinion, I believe Professor Schweber won this debate quite handily, but I'll let their arguments speak for themselves.

Voices for No

This week, the Madison chapter of Students for Fair Wisconsin is unveiling its Voices for No campaign, featuring twelve real students from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and their reasons for voting no on the ban. The campaign will include lit drops featuring these twelve students and their statements and will culminate with a display on Bascom Hill this Thursday. It will be a unique showcase of the diverse reasons that students have for voting against the ban, and just so you don't miss anything, we will be posting the statements here, too. So keep checking back over the next few days, and keep a look out on the Madison campus!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Recent Student Media Coverage

As you can see from our student press page, we've been getting a ton of coverage in student newspapers around the state lately.

The Badger Herald covered our weekend faith canvass and a press conference held by the Madison Equal Opportunities Commission and city leaders to encourage Wisconsinites to vote against the ban. Speakers included Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, who explained how the ban would harm Madison:

The Madison Chamber of Commerce opposes this amendment because they understand that it’s anti-economic development and it’s anti-prosperity. We live in what is virtually a full-employment economy here in Madison. We cannot afford to exclude or to turn down anybody in our community.

The Daily Cardinal has written about faith groups around the state that oppose the ban and an earlier piece about our new ad campaign featuring the story of Lynn and her family. They also ran this editorial that describes in greater detail the potential effects of the ban on families like Lynn's.

Editorials also appeared in The Marquette Tribune describing how the ban could affect domestic violence cases and in the UW-River Falls Student Voice asking for equal marriage rights for all. In that piece, Ben Jipson writes:

Equal civil rights are guaranteed to every law-abiding citizen in our country. Homosexuals should be able to have the same marital benefits, responsibilities and opportunities as everyone else under the law, and that is a Constitutional right. If there is any justice in this country, 50 years from now gay marriage and civil union bans will be seen as an embarrassing blemish of our nation’s history.

Finally, letters to the editor appeared in The Racquet at UW-La Crosse (here and here), and we even found one printed a few weeks ago in The Oracle at Hamline University in St. Paul