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Single-subject rule

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An Open Letter to the Wisconsin Supreme Court

June 30, 2010

Office of the Justices
16 East State Capitol
PO Box 1688
Madison, WI 53701-1688

Honorable members of the Court,
I am writing this letter to you as a concerned Wisconsin citizen who has just finished reading the Courts opinion on the issue of McConkey v. Van Hollen. While the Court’s ruling makes some very good points about a citizen’s legal standing to challenge the constitutionality of amendments enacted by the State, I fail to see the Court’s argument that the 2006 amendment did not violate the single subject rule set by our State’s constitution. I disagree with the Court on the grounds that the then proposed ballot question was indeed asking voters to vote on two distinctly different subjects, the first defining marriage as solely being the union of one man and one woman. In my personal opinion, that single clause would have been sufficient to achieve the intent of its authors, even though it creates a redundancy in our State’s laws which already establishes marriage as being the union between a husband and a wife (1979 c. 32 s. 48; Stats. 1979 s. 765.01). That being said, this letter is not to argue the definition of marriage or to air my discontent with the people of Wisconsin for passing such an un-American piece of legislation.

Where I depart from the Court’s opinion is the assertion that the second clause of the 2006 proposition fell under the same subject as the first clause (i.e. marriage). The second clause of this proposal when taken at face value does not enhance the intent of the first clause (which is to define who may enter into the contract), instead it asked the voters to decide for future generations of Wisconsinites whether other forms of legal relationship recognition (not marriage) should be recognized by the state. I ask the Court, how does this fall with in the single subject rule? Unless the Court is asserting that civil unions are equal to marriage (which other states have already said aren’t), I find the second half of this opinion highly troubling.

I do have to thank the Court for one thing though… it has helped me make a very tough decision about whether I will return to Wisconsin upon completion of my graduate studies or choose to relocate to another state that places a higher value on treating its citizens equally.

Sincerely,

Terrance Paape

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