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Local lawmakers tussle over bill defining marriage in Wisconsin

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Similar legislation banning gay marriages has been passed in 37 states.

Because other states have passed laws prohibiting gay marriage, Gundrum feels the defense of marriage legislation is necessary in preserving the sanctity of marriage in Wisconsin.

“I think it’s important that we as a culture preserve marriage as it has been for thousands of years, which is one man and one woman as husband and wife,” he said. “The concern is that without some sort of laws on the books, it’s easier for people to get (legislation legalizing gay marriage) passed.”

A public joint hearing of both committees took place last week at the state Capitol to debate the merits of the bill. Those in attendance said the testimony heard from both sides was emotional, and several expressed disdain over how the hearing ran.

“Some of the testimony was just very, very nasty,” said Sen. Tim Carpenter (D-Milwaukee), who is opposed to the bill. “Some very misinformed speakers.”

Carpenter, who called the bill “mean-spirited” and “divisive,” was unhappy the bill was placed after others on the hearing agenda. Carpenter commented that the bill’s schedule placement after a dog-bite bill showed that Gundrum and Fitzgerald thought of gays and lesbians as being lower than dogs.

“These are all other bills that could have waited until later in the day,” said Rep. Tom Hebl (D-Sun Prairie). “What they are doing is masking the idea that they didn’t want to give this bill a full hearing.”

According to Carpenter, Fitzgerald walked out of the hearing when he asked Fitzgerald to name an instance in Wisconsin history when marriage was interpreted as anything other than being between a man and a woman.

“He ran out with his tail between his legs, which is very disconcerting when you have a colleague who can’t defend his own bill,” Carpenter said.

Fitzgerald was unable to be reached for comment.

Gundrum, vouching for Fitzgerald, said: “Sen. Fitzgerald came back in to conclude his testimony on the bill. I don’t know if he had to go to the bathroom or what it was.”

While Gundrum thought the hearing was positive, he said “it was a little rude” during certain moments.

Responding to claims the bill is mean-spirited, Gundrum said: “Then I guess everyone since the dawn of time who believes marriage should be between one man and one woman has been mean-spirited.”

“There was never any meanness in my spirit that said go get these people,” said Rep. Sheryl Albers (R-Reedsburg), an Assembly committee member and bill co-sponsor. Albers criticized those who participated in a silent demonstration inside the hearing without a permit. “If anybody was mean-spirited, it was the people who organized the effort last week. They should be ashamed, and that kind of behavior doesn’t win votes, if that’s what they’re looking for.” According to Dan Leistikow, Gov. Jim Doyle’s press secretary, “the governor opposes that bill because Wisconsin already defines marriage as between a man and a woman. Therefore, the bill is unnecessary and is nothing more than gratuitous piling on.”

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