Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Why the need for a lawsuit? Just repeal marriage ban already!

Governor and Attorney General set to waste taxpayers' time, money, defending a ridiculous law that nobody wants anymore

A group of same-sex couples in Wisconsin are suing to have their marriage rights recognized by the state (PDF). Citing the 14th Amendment’s Due Process and Equal Protection clauses, the couples have made a reasonable argument for reversing the state constitutional amendment that bars same-sex marriages and unions substantially similar to marriage.

Previous efforts to sue on the matter have failed in state courts. This lawsuit differs from those earlier cases, however, because it moves the issue of Wisconsin’s marriage ban to federal courts.

But here’s an idea: instead of wasting taxpayer dollars defending the law, let’s just repeal the state ban altogether.

Polling numbers from October (PDF) show that a good majority of Wisconsinites (53 percent) support marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples. Much more than that, another quarter of residents believe that these couples should at least be given civil union rights, a title that’s not as protective as marriage but still grants at least some of the benefits. Only 19 percent think there shouldn’t be any recognition of rights to gay and lesbian partners.

So while conservative lawmakers like Gov. Scott Walker and Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen pledge to fight the lawsuit against the ban, the citizens of Wisconsin are steadfastly opposed to the ban itself by a rate of nearly 4-to-1.

But that’s not the sole reason to support repeal. The rights and privileges that gay and lesbian couples deserve to have is reason enough.

The same rationale that grants state couples the right to marry applies to same-sex couples: A loving couple, comprised of two individuals hoping to build a life together, wishes to enter a contractual agreement that bestows certain privileges to one another. The state recognizes this contract, and enforces it through the appropriate laws and regulations.

There’s nothing to say that the same type of recognition can’t be granted to same-sex partners. Where is the harm? Who is substantially hurt in granting marriage licenses to same-sex partners? It certainly isn’t the state, who would readily grant these same individuals marriage licenses if they had been born straight. And it’s certainly not other married couples, or those who are not yet married, who in no way are affected by the actions of others seeking recognition.

There is no reason why same-sex marriage should be banned in the first place. The constitutional ban in 2006 is now irrelevant, a stain on our state’s history, and an unpopular piece of policy in the minds of today’s citizens. We ought to work to repeal the law, and the first step in that process is to demand the legislature take up the issue today.

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