While the right wing was rushing to enshrine discrimination into our state constitution, they repeatedly claimed that their troubling second sentence of the amendment wouldn't harm things like domestic partner benefits. Those that stood against the anti-gay discrimination pointed to other states that used the same tactics with similar wording and did eventually move against domestic partnerships. Not very long after the unfortunate passage of the amendment, some on the right wing almost immediately started using it way beyond just gay marriage. It left many that support equal rights in an "I told you so" moment. Now the deception and harm of the second sentence is resurfacing after the Governor proposed a domestic partner registry with a limited number of benefits. Many of the supporters of discrimination will likely come down with a convenient case of amnesia as they are sure to claim that the proposal violates the anti-gay amendment.
Thankfully those that really believe in equal rights under the law are not going to let the right wing forget about their many statements regarding the second sentence and domestic partnerships. Late last week, the ACLU of Wisconsin sent a letter to the Joint Finance Committee about the issue, saying that the proposal is in fact constitutional. In that statement they specifically cited the many statements of amendment supporters. Here are some of the statements that the ACLU provided to the Joint Finance Committee:
The primary author of the Amendment, Representative Mark Gundrum, explicitly stated in his co-sponsorship and circulation memos about the Amendment that it "does not prohibit the state, local governments or private entities from setting up their own legal construct to provide particular privileges or benefits, such as health insurance benefits, pension benefits, joint tax return filing, hospital visitation, etc. …."
Legislators who supported the Amendment, including the coauthor, Representative Suder, issued media releases telling voters that state and local government health insurance benefits and other privileges for lesbian and gay male couples were not endangered by the Amendment. (Suder release, March 1, 2006).
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Rep. Mark Gundrum "said the amendment would allow the Legislature at some point to create a civil union that includes a limited number of benefits, as long as it wasn't 'substantially similar' to what's granted to a married couple." (MJS, July 30, 2006).
The Capital Times reported that lead Senate sponsor Scott Fitzgerald said that the Amendment would not prohibit state and local governments from providing benefits such as health insurance and Julaine Appling, herself agreed that "domestic partner benefits were not threatened." (CT, February 25, 2006)
Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, in a January 13, 2007 interview in the Wisconsin State Journal, told reporter Mark Pitsch that he agreed with former Attorney General Lautenschlager's opinion, "that a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage would not prevent local governments or private employers from providing health benefits to the same-sex partners of employees."