The November election in Wisconsin did not, to put it mildly, turn out the way I thought it might
in September 2005. In September 2005, I thought that voters, even the "values" voters, were getting sick and tired of the "faggot, faggot" game.
I was wrong, as we all know.
Whipped up by Christian Right preachers and the ever-reliable Catholic bishops, Wisconsin's "values" voters turned out in force and kicked our asses big time, passing the anti-marriage amendment by a higher margin than most "conservative" states. Worse yet, Wisconsin's anti-marriage amendment is a "nuclear option" amendment, which bans civil unions, domestic partnerships and may well spread its fallout onto employee domestic partnership benefits, trusts and estates law, domestic violence law and other areas.
Julaine Appling, who opined last year that "“I think we've been extremely tolerant in allowing [homosexuals] to live wherever they choose ...
"”, is puffy-proud of the vote
, and justly so. Julaine played her Christian cards close to her chest in public during the two year march toward the vote, and stayed "on message" (... its not about individiual rights or individual marriages, its about protecting the institution
of marriage ...) throughout the campaign. Julaine proved herself to be a master politician.
Julaine announced shortly after the election that the next target in her campaign to "protect marriage" is no-fault divorce
, and I will be curious to see how that works out for her, given that her political base, born-again Christians, have the highest divorce and remarriage rate in the country. I think that the issue is a non-starter for her, but we'll see. Julaine needs to do something with the FRI now that the homosexual menace has been contained, or the FRI will wither and die on the vine.
Future success or failure aside, though, on November 7 the voters gave Julaine her enduring legacy. Being the prime architect of the anti-marriage amendment is not something I'd tout on my tombstone, but Julaine is a product of Georgia and Bob Jones University, so she no doubt feels differently about it than I do. Whatever else she does in the life remaining to her, she will go down in history as the author and architect of the anti-marriage amendment. A fitting legacy, to be sure, whatever you may think of the amendment itself.
The Republican Party in Wisconsin, which passed the amendment in two legislative sessions in a cynical attempt to "energize the base", did not fare as well as Julaine. In fact, the Republican Party bombed statewide.
It is not as if the Republican Party didn't try. Republican legislators sent two red-meat referenda to Wisconsin voters -- the anti-marriage amendment and a non-binding referendum on the death penalty -- and spent the better part of two legislative sessions passing a number of measures that were not intended to become law -- concealed carry laws, freezes on local government property taxes, and so on. The Republicans counted on Democrat Governor Jim Doyle to veto the measures -- he did -- so that the Republican Party could "build a record" for the base but not deal with the consequences of actual laws.
In the end it all failed. The Republicans lost all but one of the statewide races, two congressional seats, the State Senate, and held the Assembly by the narrowest of margins. In fact, the only race the Republicans won was the Attorney General's race, and that by a margin so small as to trigger a recount. It turned out, apparently, that there was a spillover from the death-penalty enthusiasts to a "law and order" Republican Attorney General. But that was it. Failure everywhere else.
In the end, Republican bogus legislation didn't do them in -- the anti-marriage amendment did.
The exit polls strongly -- I'd say conclusively -- suggest that the anti-marriage amendment ended up turning out a lot of social conservatives who voted Democrat, and that made the difference for Governor Doyle and the Democrat slate statewide.
The Catholic Bishops and the evangelical churches worked hard to turn the amendment into a referendum on "gay marriage" -- it was not -- and turned out a large number of working-class voters, black and white, to vote against gay marriage. And turn out, they did. In droves. Wisconsin had a record turnout for an off-year election.
The only problem was that about a third of the voters who turned out to support the amendment also voted Democrat, which is what working-class voters almost always do. Over a third of Doyle's votes, for example, came from voters who voted for the anti-marriage amendment.
The Republicans lost big in Wisconsin, and the Republicans have no one to blame but themselves. As Pogo used to say, "We have met the enemy, and he is us.
So what does the future hold for in Wisconsin?
The dust is still settling.
We will, certainly, face a long struggle in the courts to figure out what "subtantially similar legal status" means for unmarried couples, straight and gay. We will, in addition, face a hard and protracted battle over domestic partner benefits, insurance and other issues, many of them revolving around the University of Wisconsin, which is the only Big Ten school not offering domestic partner benefits to faculty and staff. We will, without doubt, face a much tougher road gaining equality under the law for gays and lesbians than we otherwise would have -- my guess is that Wisconsin will have to wait, now, on the US Supreme Court decision ten or twenty years into the future before this amendment is wiped away. And we will, no doubt, struggle with our now-undeserved image as a state that is socially progressive.
But, thanks to John Gard and the Republican Party, things are not going to be as bad in Wisconsin as they have been in other states which passed amendments in 2004. Democrats control the State Senate and the Governor's office, and that will effectively block social conservative efforts to ban gay and lesbian adoption and foster care and otherwise roll back the clock, as has happened in other states.
Those of us who fought the anti-marriage amendment over the last year or two warned that the amendment would have unintended consequences. It turns out we were right, as the Republican Party in Wisconsin just found out.
No wonder Julaine Appling is talking about straight folks these days.
But let me offer a word of caution to my debating partner of late.
Divorce and remarriage among "values" voters -- the fact that the folks who talk the most about "God's plan for marriage" pay the least attention to what Jesus actually taught about marriage when it comes to their personal lives -- has always been the elephant in the room of the same-sex marriage debate.
Now that the diverson of same-sex marriage is off the table, Julaine may well get a pie in her face.
But nonetheless, it is good to see Julaine talking about "protecting marriage" with straight folks who can actually get
married and do something about the sorry state of marriage -- feckless couplings, rampant divorce, broken homes, children born out of wedlock, and so on.
It is about time that somebody talked to the breeders about the mess they've made for themselves and their children. And it is about time that the breeders took on a little responsibility for cleaning up the mess, instead of yapping and yapping about the homosexual menace. As Pogo used to say ...
So, Julaine, you go gal. You are finally talking about a real issue.