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!