Sunday, April 12, 2009

Wis. Supreme Court and the gay marriage ban

The state Supreme Court may review the 2006 gay marriage ban in Wisconsin due to the legality in passing the measure before a vote of Wisconsin citizens in a statewide referendum.

State law requires that constitutional amendments be passed by two consecutive legislative sessions. The measure is then put on a statewide elections ballot where the people decide its final fate.

In addition to these stipulations, there can only be one question/item placed before the people per constitutional amendment. That is, multiple items require separate referenda, with the people deciding on each item separately.

In 2006, the ban on gay marriage had two provisions within it, one for banning gay marriage and another for banning any recognition of partnership between homosexual couples, essentially ending any possibilities for civil unions or employee partner benefits in the state for gays and lesbians.

If reversed, the fight for gay marriage rights would not necessarily be guaranteed within the state; more likely, the Court may reverse the ban but keep things the way they were before it -- no marriage rights guaranteed, but no ban either. However, another option (one likely to be seen as judicial activism by conservatives) would have the Court requiring the state legislature to come up with a plan to recognize homosexual unions within the state, much like the Massachusetts Supreme Court did.

The Court should reverse the ban; law dictates specific ways for constitutional amendments to be passed in Wisconsin, and that method was clearly violated. The Court should also guarantee rights to gay couples equal to the rights afforded to straight couples on the basis that no objectionable justification against gay marriage exists that cannot be justified outside of religious belief. This will be seen as extreme activism, but it is the right thing to do.

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