Doyle vetoes marriage bill

Making a move many state legislators expected, Gov. Jim Doyle vetoed legislation aimed at tightening the definition of marriage in Wisconsin Friday.

On Wednesday, the state Senate passed Assembly Bill 475, dubbed the “Defense of Marriage” bill, which attempts to bar gay marriage in Wisconsin by defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman as husband and wife. The bill was then sent to Doyle for approval.

Doyle, in a statement, said the bill is “redundant and unnecessary.”

“This bill is just another example of the legislature focusing its time and energy on divisive, mean-spirited bills that do nothing to grow Wisconsin’s economy, make health care more affordable and accessible or improve our public schools,” Doyle said.

The bill was introduced into the state Assembly in August, and passed the Assembly by a 68-29 vote Oct. 23, sending it to the Senate.

Doyle’s decision to veto drew heat from Republican legislators and religious activists.

“I think it was a mistake,” said bill author Rep. Mark Gundrum (R-New Berlin). Gundrum said in light of recent court rulings in other states, including the overturn of a Texas anti-sodomy law by the U.S. Supreme Court, the bill is necessary to prevent the legalization of gay marriage in Wisconsin.

“To the average person the law is clear, but for liberal activist judges it’s too easy for them to interpret things in a very creative way,” Gundrum said. “There have been so many activist courts doing crazy things. Our law here needs tightening up like 37 other states have done with theirs.”

Gundrum said he expects the Assembly to vote to override the veto.

The legislation has a long and sordid history in Wisconsin Legislature. Gundrum first introduced his version of the bill in the 1998-99 congressional session.

Pastor Ralph Ovadal, director of Wisconsin Christians United, said he was not surprised by Doyle’s veto, and thinks the decision will damage Doyle’s long-run reputation.

Doyle “might be on his way to being a one-term governor,” Ovadal said. “He’s a perfect governor for our post-modern times. Jim Doyle has no sense of morality. He has no set standard of law. His motivations are his opinions and that of his core constituency. He simply doesn’t care about what’s right and what’s wrong.”

Opponents of the bill say Wisconsin’s current law already defines marriage as a union between a husband and a wife, and therefore, the bill is not needed and is an attack on gays and lesbians.

Doyle’s veto “shows that reason can prevail over paranoia,” according to bill opponent Rep. Tom Hebl (D-Sun Prairie).

“It’s clear that the law, as it now stands, does not permit same-sex marriages,” Helb said. The bill “just shows you how the Republican Party is being controlled by the extremist wing.”

Christopher Ott, executive director of the gay and lesbian advocacy group Action Wisconsin, said the group was pleased with Doyle’s decision.

“This bill was never necessary and was really an attack on same-sex couples and their families in our state,” Ott said. “The vast majority of the Wisconsin public never supported this bill in the first place. They want the legislature to focus on solutions to real problems. They don’t need a redefinition of what marriage is in our state.”

Ovadal agrees that current statutes already define marriage as between a husband and a wife, but said more clarification would be beneficial.

“It doesn’t hurt to take out a little insurance given the way things are going,” he said. Doyle’s veto sends the message “that he could care less about the moral climate of our state and he could care less about children,” he said.

Gundrum said he does not know when or if the bill will be reintroduced into the Assembly.