: advanced, open-minded, broad-minded, tolerant, unbiased, dynamic, enlightened, forward-looking, modern, up-to-date; Antonyms
: conservative, close-minded, dogmatic, narrow-minded, rigid, small-minded.
Representative Mark Gundrum (Republican, New Berlin), one of the authors of the Wisconsin anti-marriage amendment, was asked the other day about the number of faculty members who are now looking to leave the University of Wisconsin -- for example, Robert Carpick
, who will leave UW-Madison at the end of this semester, taking with him $3.4 million in grants.
Gundrum thinks that the coming exodus is a good thing, apparently: "Maybe the faculty that replace them won’t be as much of liberal activists. But other than that, I can’t imagine. I’m sure they’ll hire replacements that are very qualified.
Well, maybe. But I doubt, somehow, that the social conservatives that Gundrum has in mind are likely to enlighten the minds of college students all that much. But you never know, I guess. Creation science is wild flight of imagination, if nothing else, so creative writing students might benefit from learning about it.
But losing first-rate faculty because of the anti-marriage amendment and not giving a tinker's damn is hardly in line with either Wisconsin's motto ("Forward!"
) or Wisconsin's prideful but only half-true self-image as a progressive state.Fightin' Bob and Tail Gunner Joe
Wisconsin has always been odd, that way -- while Wisconsin is generally considered a "blue" state, it has a "red" underbelly.
In rural areas of the state, like Sauk County. Republican orthodoxy hangs over the political landscape like a leaden cloud. Democrats tend to be more circumspect about their political
orientation than most local gays and lesbians are about their sexual
Republicanism in rural Wisconsin isn't ideological, as it is in the red-meat suburbs of large cities, so much as something you are born to, like being Lutheran.
People vote Democrat -- Democrats consistently carry my rural county for national and statewide office, by a small margin, for example -- but most people would no more admit to being Democrat than knowingly sing too loudly in church. For many people, voting Democrat is, like braying at hymntime, mildly embarassing, something you might do but don't talk about in public.
But notwithstanding Wisconsin's unimaginative and stolid political respectability, both far-left liberalism and far-right conservatism have a political history.
Wisconsin is the political home of both "Fightin' Bob" LaFollette
and "Tail Gunner Joe" McCarthy
. Wisconsin was the first state in the nation to pass a law expressly banning discrimination against gays and lesbians, but it is also the state with the highest pro-amendment vote north of the Mason-Dixon line.
And so on and so on. Wisconsin is a study in light and dark flashes against a background of stolid leadenness, something like Lake Wobegon in a thunderstorm or pockets of red hot pepper in floating around in a chicken and dumpling stew.
In short, Wisconsin is a state where both I -- born into the Wisconsin progressive tradition and from a progressive family -- and Julaine Appling -- a product of Bob Jones Univeristy who hasn't fallen far from the tree in the 40-odd years since she's moved here from Georgia -- can lay claim to an authentic Wisconsin political ancestry.
We seem to be a political period where both strains of Wisconsin politics are at the forefront, and it is a bit disorienting.Whither the FRI-W?
Whatever is going on, it is just a bit over a month, now, after the election.
The Family Research Institute of Wisconsin's website hasn't been updated since the election, which isn't all that surprising. The FRI-W was always something of a one-pony circus, despite the group's claims to being concerned about straight folks' marriages and families as well as keeping us queers at bay.
In the heady days right after the election, the FRI-W's Julaine Appling announced an ambitious goal of ridding Wisconsin of no-fault divorce, which was an interesting idea, but she's been mum about that intiative since then. I guess too many born-agains like
no-fault divorce -- born-agains have the highest divorce rate in the country -- and the FRI-W couldn't figure out how to package a crusade against no-fault divorce as being sufficiently anti-gay to arouse any enthusiasm from the right-wing Christians who are the FRI-W's constituency.
Julaine made half-hearted runs at abortion (a dead issue for years) and gambling (another non-starter, given the number of born-agains who inhabit Wisconsin's casinos) in her recent radio transcripts. It doesn't look like either will gain any traction. Face it -- it is not nearly as much fun to look at your own problems as to faggot-bash in the name of Christian "love".
But the FRI-W needs something to keep the money flowing, or Julaine will need to find an honest job. That would be frightening for her, I imagine, given the wage scales in real-world Wisconsin. But I've no doubt that Julaine is up to the task, so I imagine that the FRI-W website will be updated in time, and then we'll know the next Christian crusade we'll have to fend off.
The one thing we can be dead certain about is that the next crusade won't focus on right-wing Christians or anything right-wing Christians do (but shouldn't) or don't do (but should). The religious right has always been outward-facing, that way.Sorting it out ...
Meanwhile, the rest of us are sorting things out.
This month's Wisconsin Bar Journal, a magazine published for Wisconsin lawyers, features Estate Planning for Unmarried Couples: Life Partners, Legal Strangers
, a look at the legal arrangments needed by unmarried couples in Wisconsin. The article does not purport to be exhaustive, but it is detailed enough to alert Wisconsin lawyers to the numerous land mines facing unmarried couples who need to plan for the future.
Planning for unmarried couples was complicated before the amendment passed, and the amendment complicated the legal situation. Madison attorney Sandy Holtzman, who has expertise in the field, noted that Wisconsin lawyers do not know yet if the amendment will alter any of the legal protections currently available to same-sex couples, and Leslie Shear, director of the Family Law Project at the Frank J. Remington Center at UW-Madison Law School, observed "As you put together these various legal documents, you're starting to create a status that is substantially similar to marriage. To me, it's somewhat ironic that the more you'd do to protect your family, the more open to a challenge you might be.
The City of Madison continues to provide health care benefits to the domestic partners of municipal employees, depite the amendment, while it braces for lawsuits challenging the city's policies. George Twigg, spokesman for Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, said: "Nothing has changed as far as we're concerned and we're sort of guessing as to the legal status of all these things right now.
" According to Twigg, the city has only received e-mailed complaints about the city's health care status, but no formal complaints have been issued.
The Regents of the University of Wisconsin voted last Thursday to ask for domestic partner benefits for university faculty members. The request is part of the University's funding request for 2007-2009. The Univeristy system cannot offer domestic partner benefits unless a state law banning the state government and state agencies from offering domestic partner benefits is amended or repealed. UW's President Kevin Reilly pleaded with the governor and state Legislature to amend state statutes to provide for domestic partner benefits.Putting your money where your mouth has been ...
On the legislative front, State Senator Jon Erpenbach (Democrat, Middleton) has announced that he will try to add Wisconsin's anti-discrimination legislation — legislation that is already state law, and has been since 1982 — to the Wisconsin Constitution in the form of an amendment. Erpenbach indicated that his focus is on clarifying the second sentence of the anti-marriage amendment, which bans bans any “legal status identical to or substantially similar to that of marriage,” arguably including domestic partner benefits and private arrangements between unmarried couples. Noting that the word “discrimination,” currently doesn’t exist in the state's Constitution, Erpenbach said: “I want to take the current state law, which defines discrimination and sexual orientation and put it in our Constitution.
” Erpenbach said he is still consulting with state lawyers on the proper approach and has not yet searched out support in the state Legislature.
Erpenbach has a point -- to the extent that the state's existing anti-discrimination laws conflict with the anti-marriage amendment, the state's anti-discrimination laws are inoperative. But the proposed amendment is bound to create a ruckus, because it will force Wisconsin's Republican legislators to come out in favor of, or against, elevating the state's anti-discrimination laws to constitutional status. It will be fascinating to see how the Republicans respond -- during the debate on the amendment, the Republicans poo-poohed the idea that the anti-marriage amendment might affect the anti-discrimination law, but now they will be asked to put their votes where their mouths have been.
The only Republican legislator to respond to Erpenbach's proposal so far is Gundrum, who said that federal non-discrimination laws make state efforts to ensure equality unnecessary. I wonder if he knows that his fellow Republicans in Congress have steadfastly refused to pass ENDA. I can't imagine that he doesn't.
Two consecutive legislative sessions would have to approve a proposed amendment to appear on the voter's ballot, which would then require the support of a majority of Wisconsin voters to pass.
I wonder if Erpenbach's proposal will spark a counter-movement from the Christian right, as seems to be happening in Washington state
. In Washington, the legislature added "sexual orientation" to the state's anti-discrimination law earlier this year, and the Christian right is thundering away for a voter referendum to overturn Washington state's inclusion of gays and lesbians in its human rights law. An earlier attempt to do so failed, but the Christian right is Pit Bull tenacious about fighting back the queer-tolerant menance, and it looks like the folks in Washington are in for a long battle, as was the case in Maine.
I don't suppose it will happen in Wisconsin, but I wouldn't bet the farm, as we say around this area. The Family Research Institute of Wisconsin is looking for a cause, and this might just fit the bill.
I'll be curious, too, to see how our Catholic bishops in Wisconsin react. The Catholic Church has a track record of trumpeting the Catechism (CCC 2358 "They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.
") while finding a reason that the form of discrimination pushed by the Catholic Church in a particular instance is just
Erpenbach's amendment will present the Catholic bishops in Wisconsin with a head-on, no excuses, test. We'll find out if they are hypocrites or not.
It all reminds me of that ancient Chinese curse: "May you live in interesting times ...