A new statewide coalition aimed at securing the freedom to marry for same-sex couples in Wisconsin launched on Aug. 7, less than 20 days before a federal appeals court will hear arguments on the issue.
The Wisconsin Unites for Marriage Coalition launched as a partnership of the ACLU of Wisconsin, Fair Wisconsin and Freedom to Marry.
The coalition representatives vowed an unprecedented grassroots public education campaign with the goal of winning the freedom to marry for all couples.
Launch celebrations were taking place on Aug. 7 in Appleton, Eau Claire, La Crosse, Madison and Milwaukee, with religious leaders, civil rights advocates, attorneys and also the couples who are suing the state for marriage equality.
In a news release, Katie Belanger of Fair Wisconsin said, "This is the first time since the 2006 campaign against the constitutional amendment that we have had a diverse statewide coalition working together to achieve the freedom to marry for same-sex couples. We are thrilled to join forces with Wisconsin's leaders in the business and faith communities, and state and national partners in the movement for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality, as we move Wisconsin forward together."
Chris Ahmuty, executive director of ACLU Wisconsin, added, "Wisconsin Unites for Marriage gives a voice to couples, their friends and families, and everyone committed to freedom and equality. You don't have to be a plaintiff or lawyer to be heard as we make history together."
The ACLU of Wisconsin and the ACLU national are representing same-sex couples demanding the right to marry in the state or recognition of their out-of-state marriages. They are challenging the constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriages that was approved by voters in 2006.
In early June, a federal district judge in Madison overturned the amendment, a decision that for a few days cleared the way for more than 500 gay and lesbian couples to marry in the state.
The weddings ended as Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, a Republican who is not seeking re-election in November, pursued an appeal.
That appeal is now before the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, with oral argument set for Aug. 26.
"My partner Katy and I have been together for over 25 years and want very much to get married. To be honest, before we won the case in federal court, we didn’t realize how much marriage meant – mostly because we could never let ourselves imagine it, because it wasn’t a reality for us for so many years," said Judi Trampf, one of the plaintiffs in the suit.
Her partner, Katy Heyning, added, "But now more than ever, I think about what would happen if something happened to Judi. In the eyes of the legal system, we’d be little more than two people who knew each other. After 25 years of commitment, living together and loving each other – we’d be nothing."
As the coalition was announced to the public, its website went live at www.wisconsinunites.org.
The site invites people to share their marriage equality stories, offers freedom to marry facts and announces opportunities to volunteer.