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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Debunking Arguments for the Hate Amendment, Part Three

This time it's Wisconsin state senator Scott Fitzgerald, the author of the Hate Amendment. He is one of a number of elected officials posting this week at Boots and Sabers while Owen is away. His essay is a defense of the amendment, a defense predicated on lies, misrepresentations, and a little bit of smoke and mirrors. It really shouldn't be this easy to take down an elected official.

He begins by explaining how burdensome the amendment process is--lest anyone think we're being capricious and hasty here. The he explains why he thinks that an amendment is necessary:
This is not a debate we’re having being we went looking for or wanted it.  It’s one we’re having because we have no choice.  Marriage is under attack by activist judges from out of state who want to impose their extreme liberal views on the people of Wisconsin, and we must defend our laws and our traditions.

Because of a 2003 ruling by the Massachusetts State Supreme Court invalidating that state’s statutory prohibition against same sex marriage, any state that does not define marriage as a union between one man and one woman included in their state constitution could be forced to recognize same-sex marriages performed in Massachusetts, regardless of whether or not those states already have laws on the books to limit marriage to a union between one man and one woman.
Are the alarms going off in your head, too? In two short paragraphs, Fitzgerald has managed to squeeze in alarmist codewords, some name-calling, and a lot of fear mongering. Fitzgerald mentions the Massachusetts case that has the conservatives so exercised, and leads you to believe that Wisconsin is in danger of falling prey to the same kind of "activist judges" with "extreme liberal views" that brought down the fire and brimstone upon the Bay State. Here are the things Fitzgerald gets wrong:
  • The Massachusetts judges were not liberal extremists. In fact, six of the seven judges on the court--and three of the four in the majority on the Goodridge decision--were appointed by Republican governors. Fitzgerald is distorting fact here.
  • Wisconsin is not required to recognize gay marriages performed in Massachusetts, and will not as long as the Defense of Marriage Act remains the law of the land. Fitzgerald is trying to scare you.
  • Wisconsin's "laws and traditions," I hate to tell the senator, are ones of acceptance, tolerance, and progressivism. We do not, in this state, have a history of bigotry and discrimination. Despite what the current Republican leadership is trying to do to us, Wisconsin has always been on the leading edge of liberal values.
Fitzgerald's misdirection doesn't stop there, though. He continues with a dodge that we've seen before:
The proposed constitutional amendment would not prohibit state or local governments or a private entity from setting up a legal construct to provide privileges or benefits such as health insurance benefits, pension benefits, joint tax return filing or hospital visitation to same-sex or unmarried couples.
As I pointed out the other day, there is absolutely no reason why gay and lesbian couple should have to wait for the legislature or anyone else to deign to grant them rights and privileges given to heterosexual couples by default. This is nothing but an attempt to create a set of second class citizens, something that does not fit in with Wisconsin's "laws and traditions." But, speaking of tradition, Fitzgerald returns to a theme from earlier:
Like Wisconsin, Massachusetts had a statutory ban on same-sex marriage, but a single court ruling wiped that law off the books and legalized gay marriage in Massachusetts.  A similar ruling by our state Supreme Court would do the same here.  An amendment to the Wisconsin constitution is the only sure-fire way to preserve marriage here and protect our traditions from attacks by activist judges and local officials in other states.
It's important for us to remember something: The Massachusetts ruling was based on a specific provision of that state's constitution--a provision not in Wisconsin's. Again, Fitzgerald is bending fact to try to scare Wisconsin voters: A Wisconsin court would have little justification for ruling our statute unconstitutional right now. And remember that our judges are elected, not appointed for life as Massachusetts judges are, so the justices would in fact be accountable should they rule in a way that violates the sensibilities of enough voters. Finally, the nut:
Marriage is one of the fundamental bedrocks of our society and deserves to be preserved as a union between one man and one woman.  The people of Wisconsin have spoken through their state legislators that they want traditional marriage protected.
At no point does Fitzgerald offer any reason for why marriage should remain as "between one man and one woman," or explain what advantage there is to preserving a system to confers rights on some but not all. If marriage is indeed a bedrock of society, should we not concern ourselves with ensuring that it is strong and available to as many members of society as possible? Or, at the very least, should we not be using our limited legislative resources to focus on ways to make existing marriages stronger? Defeating this constitutional amendment does nothing to weaken marriage, and passing it does nothing to make marriage stronger. If Fitzgerald really wanted to be doing the people's business, he'd stop wasting his time with scare tactics and lies.

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