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Reality Check: Vote No For Nothing In TV Ad

Published On: Oct 26 2006 09:16:14 AM CDT
Updated On: Oct 26 2006 09:22:51 AM CDT

A WISC-TV analysis of an ad against the proposed constitutional amendment defining marriage finds the ad is mostly accurate but overly simplifies a complex issue.

The TV ad airing across the state is from Fair Wisconsin, the group fighting against the constitutional change.

In the simple, straight-forward ad, the announcer makes a clear statement: "The constitutional amendment. Here's what will change if you vote 'no'." After a long pause, the announcer comes back, "Nothing, nothing will change. That's right. Not a thing. Not one thing."

This statement is "true," according to WISC-TV, but in a very narrow sense.

A "no" vote won't change the state constitution and won't change current law at all. However, that doesn't necessarily mean "nothing" will change.

"Gay Marriage is banned in Wisconsin. Voting 'no' means everything stays the same. No special rights. No government intervention. Keep things the way they are, vote 'no,'" says the ad's narrator.

This statement "needs clarification," according to a WISC-TV analysis.

The ad correctly points out that the current law defines marriage as between a husband and a wife. But, what could change is how judges interpret the law, which is what happened in Massachusetts and, more recently, in New Jersey.

However, every state's legal language is different, and different courts have ruled different ways.

So, while it's not fair to say nothing will change, it's also not fair to say a "no" vote will mean same-sex marriage will be legal in Wisconsin.

The truth is, no one can say with certainty what will happen.

A 'Yes' Vote

If the constitutional amendment is adopted, a "yes" vote will define marriage as between one man and one woman -- and it will be part of the constitution. That move would make same-sex marriage almost impossible in Wisconsin.

But the second sentence bans anything "substantially similar" to marriage for unmarried people. A "yes" vote will also mean courts will have to decide if that language effects domestic partner benefits or other benefits currently being offered to couples who aren't married. Legal opinions are mixed on its effect.

A 'No' Vote

A "no" vote will leave the current language of "one husband and one wife" in place, but it won't directly allow same-sex marriage.

And any benefits currently in place for domestic partners -- gay or straight -- would remain as they are now.

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