Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has all but settled the law on gay marriage, essentially declaring that bans on same sex marriage are unconstitutional, Wisconsin should get started on wiping an ugly smudge off its own state constitution.
In 2006, Wisconsinites overwhelmingly approved a state constitutional amendment (Referendum 1) defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman. In one of our darkest moments, we enshrined hideous discrimination in our most fundamental law. To their credit, Dane County residents voted in big numbers against the amendment, but their turnout couldn't overcome the large margins in most other places.
Now the public's attitudes are reversing. Almost six out of ten Wisconsin voters supported the amendment back then, and just about 60% now supports gay marriage. So let's get started on the lengthy process to clean up our constitution and remove the amendment.
It starts with the next legislative session, which needs to pass a resolution making the change. Then we have to wait for the following Legislature, seated in January of 2017, to pass the same resolution again. Then the question can go on a statewide ballot. If all goes smoothly, the thing can be erased as early as spring 2017.
There are those who will argue that because the Supreme Court ruling makes the ban moot, there's no reason to remove it, that this is all just symbolic. You bet it is. The deep and hurtful symbolism of six out of ten of your fellow citizens saying that you are essentially a second-class citizen just because of who you love was a powerful and ugly statement. While we can't change this black mark on our state's history, we can send the opposite message now, that everybody gets equal rights and lifelong commitments are a good thing regardless of whoever we are.