MADISON, Wis. – The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Wisconsin and the law firm of Mayer Brown filed a federal lawsuit today on behalf of four same-sex couples who wish to marry in Wisconsin or are seeking recognition for their legal out-of-state marriages.
The plaintiffs include Roy Badger and Garth Wangemann of Milwaukee, who have been together 37 years. Three years ago Wangemann had much of his right lung removed after being diagnosed with lung cancer. Following the operation, a complication occurred and he was put into a medically induced coma for nearly a month. His progress was uncertain, and Wangemann’s father attempted to override Badger’s power of attorney to have his son taken off life support. Before that could happen, Wangemann recovered.
“What upset me the most was that after all of our time together, our relationship was not fully recognized by my family and there was a real danger that my wish to give Roy the ability to make decisions about my care could be stripped away,” Wangemann said. “Thankfully, our wishes held in this case. But without the protections that come with marriage, the consequences can literally be a matter of life or death.”
Other plaintiffs in the case are Carol Schumacher and Virginia Wolf of Eau Claire; Charvonne Kemp and Marie Carlson of Milwaukee; and Judi Trampf and Katy Heyning of Madison.
Wisconsin’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples prevents them from securing the hundreds of protections that state law provides to married couples. Wisconsin law subjects same-sex couples to an additional harm that is unique among states that deny same-sex couples the freedom to marry. The only way for Wisconsin couples to get the federal protections that come with marriage is for them to go out of state to marry. But Wisconsin law says that may be a crime punishable by nine months in jail and a $10,000 fine.
Among the plaintiff couples, Schumacher and Wolf were legally married in another state, raising the possibility of prosecution back at home. The lawsuit challenges the overall ban as well as the application of this criminal law to same-sex couples who are forced to choose between being denied federal protections and the risk of criminal prosecution.
“These families simply want the security and recognition that only marriage provides,” said Larry Dupuis, legal director of the ACLU of Wisconsin. “They have built their lives and raised children here. It is wrong for the state to treat these loving and committed couples as second-class citizens, and it is cruel to place them in a catch-22 where they can’t even travel elsewhere to obtain federal protections without their marriage being labeled a crime.”
The lawsuit will be filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin. The plaintiffs allege that the state’s constitutional marriage ban sends a message that lesbians, gay men, and their children are viewed as second-class citizens who are undeserving of the legal sanction, respect, protections, and support that heterosexuals and their families are able to enjoy through marriage.
“More and more Americans over the past few years accept the idea that same-sex couples and their families shouldn’t be treated differently than other families,” said John Knight, staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project. “It is our hope that Wisconsin will soon join the other 17 states in granting the freedom to marry.”
At issue is whether domestic partnerships create a legal status that is “substantially similar” to marriage and therefore violate the state’s 2006 constitutional ban on gay marriage.
Gov. Jim Doyle signed the state’s domestic partnership registry into law as part of the 2009-2011 biennial budget. Domestic partnerships grant same-sex couples limited benefits, including visitation rights in hospitals and the right to inherit each other’s assets.
Julaine Appling, the executive director of Wisconsin Family Action, a socially conservative organization that opposes homosexuality, unsuccessfully petitioned the Supreme Court to take jurisdiction in an original action in 2009. The domestic partner registry has since been ruled constitutional by Dane County Judge Daniel Moeser, with that decision upheld by a state appeals court.
The appeals court ruled that, when considering eligibility requirements, formation requirements, rights, obligations, and termination requirements, “the ‘legal status’ of a domestic partnership is not ‘substantially similar’ to the ‘legal status’ of marriage.”
The idea is this: domestic partner benefits offer a few basic rights to same sex couples which come nowhere near what marriage bestows, but these wingnuts have taken the case to court in order to prove that even something as simple as hospital visitation “mimics” marriage which is expressly forbidden by the state’s super-DOMA.
Of course the problem is that Wisconsin has a super DOMA in the first place, and it can’t be challenged, even, until 2015.
Honestly, the whole fracas is embarrassing, especially now that it’s obvious which way the wind is blowing, but these conservative wingnuts are digging their heels in deeper now that it’s apparent they are losing the war (even if/when they win the battles).
Honestly, it’s like living in the Dark Ages, but cheers to my friends Kathy & Ann who are willing to stand up for their rights.
Occasionally, we do some things around here to increase queer visibility.
In the midst of all this bad news – the NRA’s ongoing thick-headedness, Iowa’s full speed reversal into 1953 – there is some good news out of the state of Wisconsin: namely, that Wisconsin’s domestic partnership registry has been upheld as constitutional by a state appeals court.
This is especially good news as Wisconsin has a superDOMA in place, which not only bans same sex marriage but bans anything like marriage for same sex couples.
Here’s the basic gist:
Democratic lawmakers created the registry in 2009. Same-sex couples who join it are afforded a host of legal rights, including the right to visit each other in hospitals and make end-of-life decisions for one another. About 1,800 couples were on the registry at the end of 2011, according to the latest data from the state Department of Health Services.
Members of the conservative group Wisconsin Family Action filed a lawsuit in 2010 alleging the registry bestowed a legal status substantially similar to marriage to same-sex couples. The group argued that violates the Wisconsin Constitution’s ban on gay marriage.
Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen refused to defend the registry, declaring it was clearly unconstitutional. Former Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat, appointed private attorneys to defend it, but Republican Gov. Scott Walker fired them after he took office in 2011 because he, too, believed the registry was unconstitutional.
Fair Wisconsin, the state’s largest gay rights group, stepped into the case to defend the registry. Dane County Circuit Judge Daniel Moeser ruled last summer that the registry was constitutional, finding it conveys a status that’s not identical or substantially similar to marriage.
Which means, in a nutshell, that right now is a damn good time to donate to Fair Wisconsin and thank them for their efforts on behalf of some very basic rights of same sex couples.
Her first political ad:
… Football season, that is. For those of you who don’t live in Wisconsin or in some other place where football is de rigeur, I’m not sure you can understand exactly how awesome a beast football fandom is. I manged to avoid it for 40 years of my life, happily. I’ve never liked the violence of football; I’ve never been comfortable in a room where people are yelling violent things at a TV screen. It’s just not my cup of tea, & never has been. That’s not to say that I don’t attend Superbowl parties – I do, and always have, because the ads and the Half-Time show are entertaining – and I’ve certainly decided to watch with friends who love the game but didn’t have anyone else to watch with. I know how the game works, for the most part, or did: I used to play football, tomboy that I was.
I’m glad that it gives some people joy & camaraderie. The Packers, for instance, are actually owned by the people of Wisconsin, which I think is a damned cool thing. There is something to be said for a sport that helps people bond. There’s a lot of to be said for the lessons of winning and losing graciously, and learning how to put ego aside for the sake of a group effort.
But I am still a Gender Studies professor, and it’s nearly impossible for me to shut my critical eye. It’s not that I don’t have guilty pleasures – porn is certainly one of them – that I have conscientious qualms about enjoying. But I can’t say I partake in anything so mainstream, so culturally-validated, so intensely insisted upon. And I certainly don’t insist that anyone else who might have objections to porn like the stuff in order to hang out with me.
People might assume – because of who I am, because of what I do – that I’m somehow immune to feeling left out. I’m not. Since I think a lot too about bullying, and about how queer kids are often made to feel like they don’t fit in, I’ve been paying close attention to the things that make me feel both lonely and isolated here. I’ve considered doing an “It Gets Better” video, but this past year was not one that made me feel like it does. No, in new, acute ways, even as an adult, even if you’re known as a bit of a firebrand, a crank, or eccentric in whatever way, standing down peer pressure is still difficult. Sometimes it taxes me in ways that sadden me; I would have expected, by now, not to feel that kind of sting. But I do. I wish I didn’t. More
Congratulations to Outagamie County, reportedly the first county in Wisconsin to adopt a resolution to opposing AB 173, the anti-immigration copy cat law.
Our Lives magazine came to the awards ceremony when I received my Activist award from Fair Wisconsin, and asked me to write a little something based on my remarks that night. So I did, and it’s in this month’s issue.
This is the fourth year and the fourth time I’ve taught a Transgender Lives course at Lawrence University in Appleton. We always spend a week of the course specifically on violence against trans people—the kind of transphobia and gender panic that cause people to be so brutal. And every year, the week before we start that section, I tell my students that we only have to wait a little while before a new case of trans violence is reported. I can say that on Thursday, and by the time we’re beginning the section the following Tuesday, I’ve been proven right. There is always one. Last year Chanel Larkin was murdered right here in Milwaukee. I want to see a year where it’s not true, and another and another, and hopefully, eventually, I will only teach that section of Trans Lives as history.
Go read the whole thing. It’s a cool magazine.
WI’s governor Scott Walker is going to be in NYC tomorrow, and this NYer would love it if people could go protest for me. DC 37 is organizing a group, and has an event page on FB. Here’s the info:
Tuesday, June 28th, 4 – 7PM
Grand Army Plaza Park in Manhattan, 5th Avenue between 58th & 60th Streets (across from the Sherry Netherlander Hotel)
Please go if you can!
I don’t really understand why LGBTQs have anything to do with religions that condemn them. This week, in a nearby town, a Methodist minster went on trial for two things: being a practicing self-avowed homosexual and marrying a same sex couple.
She was found guilty of the marriage – mostly because there’s a record of it happening, & her having officiated – but she was found not guilty of homosexuality because despite admitting publicly that she lives with her wife, she hasn’t actually admitted she has sex with her. Honestly, they asked her about genital contact – which did at least inspire groans from the witnesses, and she refused to answer.
What kind of bullshit is that? Oh, wait: then again, we live in a culture where a politician has to resign because of a sex scandal in which he didn’t actually have sex with anyone but his wife.
I understand the need for a connection/relationship with the divine, but I don’t get trying to find it through organized religion. Then again, I decided the Church couldn’t possibly be messengers of divine anything if they thought my having a vagina kept me from being holy enough to be a priest — and that, especially in the light of all the female saints: it just didn’t make any sense. I was raised by Jesuits, after all.
I just don’t get it. I am glad others want to fight this fight, but it definitely isn’t mine. That said, I have long thought that if Jesus were alive today, he’d be hanging out with trans street hustlers of color who are homeless in our nation’s cities.
Good news Monday, bad news Tuesday night: Walker is planning on de-funding Wisconsin’s Planned Parenthood, taking a note from Indiana’s governor.
First: this has nothing to do with money. The cost of additional pregnancies, cancer care, & the like, will absolutely cost more, and the governor of Indiana has already said that publicly.
Second: the government already doesn’t pay for abortions.
Tiresome, hateful, short-sighted, and arrogant bullshit.
(Madison, Wisconsin, Monday, June 20, 2011) – Today, the Circuit Court, Branch 11 in Dane County Wisconsin upheld as constitutional the state’s Domestic Partner Registry.
Wisconsin Circuit Court Judge Daniel R. Moeser wrote, “Ultimately, it is clear that Chapter 770 does not violate the Marriage Amendment because it does not create a legal status for domestic partners that is identical or substantially similar to that of marriage. The state does not recognize domestic partnership in a way that even remotely resembles how the state recognizes marriage. Moreover, domestic partners’ have far fewer legal rights, duties, and liabilities in comparison to the legal rights, duties, and liabilities of spouses.”
“The law is clear—the domestic partnership law does not violate the Wisconsin constitution,” said Christopher Clark, Senior Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal’s Midwest Regional Office based in Chicago. “The research the court provided in its ruling today is a showcase of material proving that the proponents of the antigay marriage amendment repeatedly told voters in 2006 that the Marriage Amendment would not ban domestic partnership benefits.”
In June 2009, Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle signed domestic partnerships into law, granting limited but important legal protections to same-sex couples, including hospital visitation and the ability to take a family medical leave to care for a sick or injured partner. Wisconsin Family Action, an antigay group, brought a lawsuit in Dane County Circuit Court arguing that the domestic partnership law is a violation of Wisconsin’s constitutional amendment banning marriage equality. Shortly thereafter, Lambda Legal successfully moved to intervene in the lawsuit on behalf of Fair Wisconsin and five same-sex couples.
“We are pleased that the Court upheld the limited protections provided by domestic partnerships because they are essential in allowing committed same-sex couples to care for each other in times of need,” said Katie Belanger, Executive Director of Fair Wisconsin. This is an exciting day for Wisconsin. Domestic partnerships marked our state’s first step toward full equality in nearly 30 years. Judge Moeser’s decision will ensure that we can continue advancing equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Wisconsinites in the years ahead.”
Woohoo! Good news for Wisconsin!
I read an article in Slate recently, by the author of Stiltsville, who was surprised to find herself described in a review of one of her books as “a recent transplant” as she’s been living in the midwest for 12 years, 10 of them in Madison.
It was this section of her article that rang (sadly) true for me:
Midwesterners are wary of prying—they consider it impolite, even unfriendly—and they don’t readily reveal personal information. Which means they exist comfortably at a certain remove that can take years—and I mean years—to breach. When my family gets together in Florida, we share a meal, heatedly discuss current events, then retire to separate bedrooms to catch up on email. When my husband’s extended family gets together, it’s an all-day family-fest. They might not talk about much, but they truly enjoy just being together. To a coastal-hearted misanthrope like myself, it’s mind-blowing. But spending time not saying much of anything with family is one thing—doing it with acquaintances is another thing entirely.
I might find, say, having dinner with acquaintances, where the topics range from the weather to the menu, disappointing. Exhausting and depressing, even. But acquaintances are acquaintances, no matter where you live. The trouble here is the trouble everywhere: how to find close friends, how to really connect. And though I appreciate Midwestern civility (a departure from Miami, for example, where in an afternoon one might witness a fight at a traffic light, have one’s cart rammed at the store, then be persistently ignored by a waiter), I continue to wrestle with the barriers of it.
When you are both an introvert and a “coastie” (as we’re called), there’s real trouble. I generally know when I like people and feel that I can trust them, and in NYC, at least among my group of friends, sexual peccadilloes, money woes, medical diagnoses and trashy humor are conversation starters; I can’t recall ever talking much about the weather — although it may be that midwesterners talk more about the weather because there is so much more weather here (a recent day featured not just snow, sleet, rain, and hail, but thunder, lightning, and tornadoes).
That doesn’t mean there aren’t others like me; for starters, there are other transplants, other “coasties” who leap right in too. And there are most definitely midwesterners who are the NYC pilgrim sort, and who obviously understand, and even like, slightly brassier manners. In an odd way, as depressing as it was, this article was incredibly useful to me as well; I’ve felt like a bit of an outsider, but in the context she’s given me, I’m doing just fine.
But I hate to break it to her that Danskos are quite hip in NYC, especially since we all walk and stand so much more,which leads me to wonder if standing in subways close enough that we can smell each other breaks the ice much more easily than always being cocooned and enveloped in your own private car and your own private smells. I, for one, think we underestimate being both social and animals.
What do you expect of two people who went on their first date to see Point of Order and now live in the birthplace of Joe McCarthy? You expect gung-ho progressive politics, dammit.
Tonight, after being a Daily Kos reader for a goddamn long time, Betty posted a piece about our local elections here in Appleton, WI:
I live and work in Appleton, Wisconsin.
Two of our Alderman elections were won by people I know and respect. Both were first-timers.
This is big and it’s nice. The town I live in has a progressive backbone and just showed it. The birthplace of Joe McCarthy.
Appleton is part of the Green Bay/Oshkosh corridor (probably the biggest by population) and from what I can tell, leans conservative (I’m a recent emigré from Brooklyn, NYC).
Wahl and Metille are progressive. And they won. Impressively.
In Prosser’s back yard.
Appleton, WI has two more progressive voices in elected positions.
I like the small victories. They smell like big ones.
Of course we are still waiting, will be waiting a while for the Prosser/Kloppenburg results, but in the meantime, we have these victories.
Today, the AFL-CIO is leading a national day of solidarity with Wisconsin workers and others in states whose rights and unions are being threatened. They’ve got a live feed of various events throughout the day. There’s a Twitter hashtag too, of course.
You can find a local gathering on their website, too.
On Tuesday, it’s Election Day in Wisconsin, and it’s one of those elections for which most people don’t bother to show up, most years. This year, I suspect, will see a much higher turnout because progressives, democrats, and sensible conservatives alike are frustrated at the strong-arm tactics of Governor Walker. Oh, you know who I mean: the guy who just decided collective bargaining is a disposable aspect of democracy, a hurdle in the way of the fiscal bottom line. It is, rather, the heart of democracy: that the many get a vote, that they get a say, that we get some modicum of a voice in our government, in our employment, and so, in our lives. The guy & his cronies will be recalled, but in the meantime, even if people did hear about Walker and the subsequent protests, you may not realize how motivated people are here.
I’ve had a couple of people from out of state write to me about the Kloppenburg campaign, which I’m happy to say is getting no small amount of attention now, and which is at least one of the big reasons progressives will be coming out to vote. Believe me, we’re paying attention to the Kloppenburg campaign, and so are many political orgs (including the LGBT one).
But here, in tiny Appleton, I’ve had the pleasure of watching two people step up to run for City Council exactly because they knew they had to. The first is Teege Mettille, who is running in Appleton’s 11th District. He’s a foster parent, as well as an adjunct faculty member and admissions counselor for two local universities.
The second is Christoph Wahl who lives in Distict #1, a district where the only candidate left running was a Tea Party Republican with possible connections to “White People’s Heritage” group (which, in a city that is home to the John Birch Society, you don’t laugh off). His opposing candidate dropped out, & Wahl, who has lived in Appleton all of his life, decided to step up. He didn’t have time to get added to the ballot; he’s running a write-in campaign in a district with about 4500 residents, about 1800 of which are registered to vote, and of which, about half voted in the last election. That is, he is running to win in a district where every single vote will count.
Which is why it’s about a million times more important for progressives and Democrats to get out & vote on Tuesday — or, if you live in WI, before Tuesday, as we’ve got early voting here. So go do it. Give someone else a ride to the polls. You don’t (yet) need a photo ID. BUT GET OUT & VOTE, WISCONSIN!
No, really: 1911 saw the WI passage of the first Worker’s Comp laws, but it wasn’t until 1959 that WI was one of the first states to pass collective bargaining laws.
Here are some of my other favorites of the day:
Bilerico has had a couple of good pieces about the connections between how what’s going on in Madison connects to LGBT political organizing.
In 1919, the labor movement’s successful fight for a 40-hour workweek bought us the time and the space to start coming together as queer people; to come together and take a deep breath and just plain notice ourselves. And in the noticing, we started to ask questions and in asking those questions, to dream of how things could be different. That’s what economic justice creates for us. It creates lives where there is the space to talk to each other, to feel like we can turn our gazes away from making sure there is enough food and a place to sleep and instead begin to act on our dreams.
Caitlin Breedlove commented recently on the unusual alliance she’s experiencing as a queer Madisonian in the midst of what is often white working class organizing:
I believe that in Wisconsin I am in the midst of many working class white people who voted conservative in the November elections based on rights to their guns, or because they don’t like the idea of gays getting married, or because they don’t like that Obama is Black. I am standing next to them in struggle. This is an unusual position for me. I am standing with them as I am watching parts of them being transformed. Many of these people have realized their guns are not as important as having a job, a house, decent public schools for their kids, or healthcare. They are figuring out that, as Michael Moore said from the Madison Capitol this weekend: “America is not broke…the country is awash in cash…it is just that the wealth is not in our hands.” Many of my comrades here have said that it is amazing how many people realize this fight is about capitalism and corporate greed.
Her larger point, about the reclaiming of public space as essential to LGBT people, immigrants, & the working class, is vital information. Our public sector has been under attack for a few decades now by people who want none of us to be empowered in the way our government treats us:
She points to the fact that the Capitol occupation is very much about reclaiming public space. As LGBTQ people, we are systematically pushed out of public space – discouraged from being ourselves at our workplaces, our kids’ schools, at the grocery store, and in our local and state governments. Why do so few of us run for public office? Why are so many of our activists who do not work in LGBTQ-specific areas closeted? Because we have been sent a clear message: public space is not our space. We are not “the Public.”
We are not the only community sent this message.
Immigrants are told something similar every time we open our mouths and speak a language that is not English. The systems of our towns are set up so that on every street, every bus, and every glittering downtown poor people are sent the same message: you do not belong here, this place is not for you.
This week people in Madison are saying that class warfare is real, it needs to be faced head on, and to do that we must reclaim public space. This month, people all over the Middle East are saying this, and so much more. Are we ready to recognize that this struggle (like so many struggles) is our struggle?
I can’t imagine a message that queer people have heard over & over again but her “you do not belong here, this place is not for you.” We know exactly what that means, and we know exactly how it feels, and the queer movement has for years resisted being told where and when we get to exist and have our lives be visible. Without public spaces, without the people’s insistence on government accountability and the right to assembly, both of which are being denied in the state capital of Wisconsin, queer organizing will also be shut out.
Please, queerios, pay attention to what’s happening here. The right to bargain collectively is not just about economics, nor about work. It’s about the right to BE counted as persons and citizens: We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it is a little more like We’re here, get used to it just now.
This is amazing. The rabid (not in the good way) governor of WI has effectively locked up the state capitol, so state reps have moved their desks outside to meet with voters.
How incredible is that? Honestly, I feel at home here in a way I never expected; the WI response to this governor’s powergrab tells me WI has got bigger shoulders than Brooklyn or Chicago. Damn.
And by the way, it wasn’t more than 20 something degrees out today. These folks are not kidding around.
(h/t to my friend Matty for the photo)