At least ten members of the Madison Common Council chose not to sign a supplementary statement on their official oaths of office on Tuesday afternoon. The statement pledges opposition to the Wisconsin marriage amendment adopted last fall.
Of the nine new alders, four chose to sign the statement while five decided not to, including Eli Judge, the former chair of the statewide student group organized to defeat the amendment.
This supplemental statement reads:
I take this oath of office today under protest to the passage of the constitutional amendment creating article XIII, section 13, of the Wisconsin Constitution. This amendment besmirches our Constitution with these words:
"Only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state. A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized in this state."
I pledge to work to eliminate this section from the Constitution and work to prevent any discriminatory impacts from its application.
Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, who started his inaugural speech today with a reference to the amendment and his opposition to it, signed the statement. So did ten alders. They are:
- Zach Brandon
- Tim Gruber
- Julia Kerr
- Brenda Konkel
- Larry Palm
- Satya Rhodes-Conway
- Marsha Rummel
- Brian Solomon
- Mike Verveer
- Robbie Webber
Ten alders chose not to sign the supplementary statement. They are:
- Tim Bruer
- Joe Clausius
- Mark Clear
- Lauren Cnare
- Judy Compton
- Eli Judge
- Thuy Pham-Remmele
- Jed Sanborn
- Michael Schumacher
- Paul Skidmore
Judge, who replaces Austin King on the Council as representative of eighth district, populated heavily by students, was chair of Students for a Fair Wisconsin. The new alder explained his decision on his blog:
With all that said, I will not be taking the supplemental statement to the oath.
I have told this to a couple students and future-fellow alders and many are relatively surprised. Given my past record and the fact that I publicly identify as "gay," I am usually considered a sure-fire "statement-er." I can assure you, my decision has nothing to do with a change in heart over the ban and its effects. I will continue to fight the ban, prejudice, or hate against any community until the day I die. I simply do not feel the need to declare that truth in the same breath by which I am put into public office.
On a personal note, I also have reservations about tagging things to an oath of office. I fear that, in 20 years, as I watch my children tear down this hateful, worthless excuse for a constitutional addition, some other city or town may decide to follow our precedent and, in the event that we pass an amendment that allows same-sex marriage, establishes a statement against gay marriage. Admittedly, my long-sighted view of the matter is broadly applied, but I fear for the child sitting in a conservative town or village, questioning his or her own sexuality only to find that the individuals who administer his or her town have "stated" that he doesn't deserve equal rights.
With that said, there are some advantages to our city having the statement. Mike Ross, a former appointee to the Equal Opportunities Commission and fellow activist with Fair Wisconsin, left his position on the EOC in light of the ban's passage. His position is more than understandable and, in my eyes, commendable. I believe that, if having the statement can act as a deterrent to losing such qualified and dedicated public servants as Mike, it serves a good purpose.
It's a mixed bag. I won't be taking the statement, but I completely understand why the City and those utilizing the addition would.
This is a clear sign that Judge will be approaching his aldermanic position from a different perspective than that held by Austin King, and could portend a significant shift in the balance of power on the council.
Offering a different perspective, Ald. Zach Brandon passed out copies of his statement on the issue to media present at the swearing-in ceremony in council chambers Tuesday afternoon. It reads:
It is important to note that the legislation did NOT amend the oath of office. I would not have supported that, because I do consider it a part of my civic obligation.
But, making a separate statement, that is not part of the oath, in order to take a stand against discrimination, however popular that discrimination happens to be, is equally part of that obligation.
Remember, it wasn't that long ago (1967) that the Supreme Court finally overturned inter-racial marriage bans. If the amendment this fall had banned inter-racial marriages, I would not have been expected to, nor would I have, stood silent.
When I was younger, a retiring politician, who served during segregation, told me that "history is littered with politicians who, when given the opportunity to stand up for what is just, stood by and did nothing." He told me that he still lost sleep for the times that he stood by.
I have to be honest, I think I will sleep pretty well tonight.