Tag Archives: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Scott Walker’s story about state’s inability to fire employees for fornicating at work was not true

To drum up support for getting rid of Wisconsin’s civil service system, Gov. Scott Walker in September told a story of two state railroad commission workers who weren’t fired for having sex on state time and property. He said the state’s civil service system prevented supervisors from dismissing them, thus demonstrating the need for changes to the system.

But the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Thursday (http://bit.ly/1PErp6D ) that records show no attempt was made to fire the two workers or discipline them beyond letters of reprimand issued in November 2011. The newspaper obtained the evidence proving that Walker’s story was false through the open records law that Republicans hope to kill. The state’s GOP leadership already has banned John Doe investigations of politicians and gotten rid of the non-partisan Government Accountability Board, which probes ethics violations.

Depite the proof that the governor’s story was false, his spokeswoman said Friday that the current system forced the state’s Office of State Employment Relations to recommend discipline short of firing.

But state law says specifically that employees can be fired for just cause. OSER officials didn’t immediately respond to an email inquiring about the case.

The state’s civil service system was created more than a century ago to eliminate rampant cronyism and corruption in the hiring of state employees. The Assembly has passed a bill to get rid of restrictions that prevent public officials from giving jobs to their family members, cronies and donors.

Dem official: WEDC illegally gave out $21 million in taxpayer dollars

After years of scandals at Gov. Walker’s Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), a new investigative report by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel revealed that the troubled agency exceeded its authority and improperly awarded more than $21 million in taxpayer funding to businesses and Gov. Walker campaign contributors.

In light of this latest report, I demand immediate Republican action to reign in this rogue agency.

Four and a half years of failure and corruption is enough. Republicans can’t continue to turn a blind eye while their unaccountable WEDC cheats hardworking taxpayers out of millions of dollars. With a shrinking middle class, declining family wages and Wisconsin layoffs at a five-year high, it’s time to restore accountability and put an end to the WEDC’s history of corruption.

Democrats have put forward numerous proposals to reign in the WEDC, increase accountability and improve economic development. Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point, and Rep. Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, have authored legislation to overhaul WEDC and improve taxpayer transparency. Additionally, Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay, and Rep. Katrina Shankland, D-Stevens Point, have authored legislation to crack down on fraud and corruption at the agency.

Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, is the Senate Democratic Leader.


Walker falls below the fray of Fox News debate, Kasich rises above it

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s analysis of the first Republican debate of the 2016 presidential campaign ran under the headline “Scott Walker sticks to script, delivers safe, quiet performance.” That was the best the newspaper, which has mostly supported Walker over the course of his career, could say with accuracy about his appearance on Aug. 6 at Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena with nine other GOP hopefuls.

For the millions of viewers who were glimpsing Walker for the first time during the Fox News debate, Walker’s performance must have been baffling. Positioned by his handlers as a shoot-from-the-hip union-buster who exudes such charm that even Wisconsin Democrats support him in significant numbers, Walker failed to make good on that image. In fact, flanked by larger-than-life and more seasoned candidates, Walker was practically invisible. His supporters said he rose above the fray, but he really shrank beneath it.

Walker was genial and at ease — an “aw, shucks” kind of guy who loves his Harley. He effectively brandished his conservative bona fides and spun his biggest failures as governor — creating jobs, raising the quality of life for everyone in the state — as triumphs. He got in a couple of zingers at Hillary Clinton’s expense — red meat for the Fox crowd.

But he said very little, and nothing that Wisconsinites haven’t heard many times before. The candidates were given 60 seconds to answer questions, but Walker often took even less than that paltry amount of time to answer. The Journal Sentinel reported that Walker spoke less than 40 seconds during the first 30 minutes of the debate and only six minutes in total.

Perhaps that wise, given his prior gaffes. But his relative obscurity during the event should take a toll on his polling numbers.

The morning after the debate, one of Walker’s PACs announced a $7-million buy for advertising in Iowa, which is a must-win for him. Did his campaign realized his debate performance would not generate any momentum?

Fox News deserves a lot of credit for delivering an innovative and lively debate format. Each candidate got a TV commercial-style moment, but the commentators asked tough questions and encouraged candidates to mix it up. Chris Christie, who performed above expectations, had an entertaining and substantive give-and-take over NSA spying with Rand Paul, whose quirky libertarian ideology stuck out like a his hair.

Like Walker, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush had a lot riding on his performance. He needed to live up to his standing in the polls and show why Republican leaders are behind him. Visibly nervous during the first hour, he found his stride in the second, delivering a thoughtful answer about his brother’s rush to war in Iraq and standing firm on his call for immigration reform. He was not, however, the star of the evening.

That honor goes to Ohio Gov. John Kasich, followed closely by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. Kasich has the strongest qualifications for the presidency of anyone on stage, and he listed them with appealing humility. He generated the biggest cheer of the evening with a touching answer to a question about whether he would accept his daughter if she came out to him as gay.  He was as calm and authentic as neuro-surgeon Ben Carson, but far more knowledgeable and articulate. The baby-faced Rubio was all polish and poise, with an appealing personal narrative.

Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, who appeared during a boring afternoon forum for the second-tier candidates, was the clear star of that event. Authoritative, articulate and, well, supremely business-like, she easily rose above Rick Perry at his best and Lindsey Graham at his scariest, as he all but promised another war in the Middle East if elected.

The glaring loser of the evening debate was front-runner Donald Trump, who was only effective at portraying an emperor with no clothes. Seemingly angry at life itself, his acid tongue wandered all over the nation’s issues without ever offering a plan to change all the wrongs he enumerated. He admitted to building his real estate empire in part by paying off lawmakers, as if that was beneficial experience for a president.  

It’s hard to imagine that he’ll be front and center at the next debate.

News analysis | Despite right-wing media smear, Burke and Walker still tied

Three days before Wisconsinites head to the polls to elect their next governor, two final public polls show the race between controversial Gov. Scott Walker and business leader Mary Burke remains a virtual dead heat.

Walker leads by only one point in both polls, well within their margin of error. Both campaigns have acknowledged that their success on Election Day — Tues., Nov. 4 — depends on who turns out to vote.

Public Policy Polling released a survey yesterday that found Walker with a 48–47 lead over Burke. The poll is operated by Democrats and often criticized for favoring that party. But a respected Fordham University study following the 2012 elections showed that PPP was the most accurate pollster in the nation for that year’s races.

Also released yesterday was the final poll from YouGov, which showed Walker leading Burke 42–41. Both polls are consistent with the results of repeated polls over the last two months.

“The final public polls released over the last few days confirm what we’ve known for months — the race between Scott Walker and Mary Burke is all going to come down to turnout,” Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Mike Tate said today. “Wisconsin voters need to know this race is incredibly close and their vote will make a difference between four more years of Scott Walker’s failed policies or a new direction with Mary Burke.”

Burke is fighting back with new ads addressing a smear campaign by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the Wisconsin Reporter, a right-wing publication with ties to the ultra-conservative Bradley Foundation. The foundation’s leader Michael Grebe is also the chairman of Walker’s reelection campaign.

In the 2012 recall election of Walker, the Bradley Foundation was widely condemned for placing billboards in Milwaukee’s predominantly African-American neighborhood that warned voter fraud is a felony. The billboards were seen as part of a coordinated right-wing effort to legitimize the unproven myth that voter fraud is an actual problem.

The Wisconsin Reporter’s smear piece on Burke quoted three GOP operatives who once worked for Trek Bicycle Corp., owned by Mary Burke’s Family. All three said she was fired in 1993 as head of Trek’s European operations.

Denounced as patently false by Mary Burke, current Trek CEO John Burke and others who worked at Trek during those years, the story was nonetheless picked up by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which has endorsed Walker in the past and seemed to endorse him again last Sunday in an article that was not tagged as an endorsement. The newspaper used it as one of two top cover stories, placing it in a prominent position above its fold and next to a story about an unlikely poll from Marquette University Law School showing Walker surging ahead by seven points among likely voters.

Today, the Journal Sentinel placed a story about Burke’s campaign firing back against the GOP’s smear campaign on the cover. But the story read like an attempt to reignite the false claims for readers who missed the first smear piece. It made no attempt to update readers on negative information about Burke’s accusers that has come to the forefront in the past few days or to speak with former Trek employees who disagree with her critics.

The same pro-Walker Marquette poll headlined by the Journal Sentinel a few days ago had, only a week prior, showed Burke ahead among likely voters; and even the more recent poll showed only one point separating the two candidates among registered voters, although the paper’s editors decided to go with the pro-Walker angle in its headline. That led many Burke supporters to dismiss the most recent Marquette poll as either an outlier or as intentionally manipulated to help its favorite son (even though he failed to graduate) out of a tight spot.

In the Journal Sentinel’s smear piece against Burke, the three bylined reporters spoke only to John Burke to defend his sister, creating the perception that no one else disputed the assertions of the Republican operatives. While the Journal Sentinel article revealed that one of the Republican Burke critics — Gary Ellerman — has posted on Facebook comparisons between President Barack Obama and Hitler, the piece did not mention that he believes Michelle Obama is really a man and that the president is, in his words, a “homo.”

Ellerman, who chairs the Jefferson County Republican Party, quickly deleted his Facebook page after receiving media calls. Ellerman ran as a “fake” Democrat in the 2011 state Senate recall elections.

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin has called on Walker to fire Ellerman from his chairmanship.

Trek dismissed Ellerman for incompetence in 2004, giving him a personal axe to grind, as John Burke charged. Another of the Burke detractors also had reason to retaliate: In addition to being a volunteer on Walker’s campaign, he heads one of Trek’s primary competitors — Specialized Bicycle Components.

All three of the Burke critics who were given a splashy, uncritical treatment in the conservative press are staunch Republicans and Walker supporters who have longstanding political involvement with him. That led Burke to accuse Walker of being behind the smear.

Walker famously acknowledged that he’d considered planting fake protesters to incite violence in the demonstrations outside the Capitol in 2010, and there’s video of him bragging to a mega-wealthy donor that his political strategy is based on “divide and conquer.” Such statements demonstrate his willingness to participate in dirty tricks, such as the 11th-hour revelations from Burke’s right-wing former colleagues at Trek.

In the “divide and conquer” video, he suggests that his goal is to make Wisconsin a “right to work” state, a subject he’s been coy about on the campaign trail as he tries to woo moderates and independents.

Six companies in five years

“The fact is, my track record, is I created six companies in less than five years (at Trek).  I grew sales from $3 million to over $50 million and I did all of this before I was 35 years old,” Burke said on the campaign trail yesterday.

John Burke confirmed that his sister left during a corporate restructuring and that the work she did remains a profitable asset to the company today. In fact, far from firing Burke, Trek asked her to come back to the company two years later to head global forecasting.

None of that was mentioned in the Journal Sentinel story, which took her to task over a snowboarding sabatical that she took as if it was a criminal activity. Burke has repeatedly stated that she worked part time creating trade shows during the two years in question, but she acknowledged that she wanted some time off as well. In forcing her on the defensive over such an odd story that occurred more than 20 years ago, the Journal Sentinel succeeded in trivializing her business achievements, especially since the coverage was not accompanied by side-by-side comparisons with Walker’s activities during that period. Those activitiesincluded being disciplined by Marquette University for breaking its campaign rules in his bid for student body president, quitting college and dealing rumors that he got a Marquette student pregnant around the time he left. That last rumor was initially reinforced by comments posted by Daniel Bice, one of the writers bylined on the Journal Sentinel’s  smear piece on Burke. Bice later said he investigated the charges and was convinced they were not true.

The head of Trek’s German operations joined John Burke and others in praising Burke’s performance in developing the company’s European operations. Both said she established a profitable market, complete with supply-chain and marketing operations, from scratch.

“Mary built the foundation of a business in Europe that continues to pay dividends today,” John Burke told the Wisconsin State Journal. “What’s happening here is people are trying to discredit what Mary accomplished. What I’m saying is ‘No, I was there, Mary accomplished an amazing thing.’ ”

John Burke described the media-coordinated, last-minute smear of his sister as “a highly orchestrated move by Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign.”

“This is what you get with Scott Walker-style politics,” said Burke campaign spokesman Joe Zepecki. “Convictions, arrests, shady donations, secret email systems. This is what the people of Wisconsin are going to reject next Tuesday.”

Among the many related issues missing from all of the right-wing newspaper attacks on Burke’s credentials is the fact that Walker has no business management experience, has run up a budget deficit despite huge cuts in government spending, failed to create more than 40 percent of the 250,000 jobs he pledged in his 2010 campaign, turned down $4 billion in federal aid to the state and made a shambles of both the Milwaukee County Executive’s office and his flagship job-creation organization — the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.

Ironically, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel contends that WEDC was a smart idea that was terribly managed, and the paper cited the business-experienced Burke saying she would keep the agency but overhaul it as proof that it dosn’t deserve the wrecking ball.

The ‘anti-woman’ card

Burke’s three GOP detractors accused her not only of being fired for incompetence but also of having a difficult “management style,” which is often used as euphemism among misogynists to describe strong, confident women. That characterization, given the lack of high-level women executives in 1993, suggests to many Burke followers that her white male critics didn’t like answering to a young woman with an MBA from Harvard University Business School.

Neither Burke nor her campaign would talk about that hot-potato aspect of the story, illustrating how difficult it is for women to run for public office. If they behave with the same aggression that a male candidate would, they offend men. If they complain about the unequal treatment they’re given due to their gender, then they face backlash for “playing the woman card.”

Numerous anti-Burke comments that Wisconsin Gazette has had to remove from its Facebook page have attacked the candidate for her appearance, while only two commenters out of the more than 30,000 who’ve seen WiG’s supportive Burke posts on Facebook in recent days have slammed Walker over his looks, specifically his large bald spot, which one commenter said is big enough to host a Burke campaign sign.

While no woman candidate wants to play the “woman card,” the “anti-woman card” gets played frequently and sometimes and it can create a backlash of its own. The Republican Party — both nationally and in Wisconsin — is widely accused by progressives for waging what they call a “war on women.” The result has been a wide gender gap among voters.

Walker’s record is as hostile toward women as any governor’s in the nation. He vetoed legislation mandating equal pay for women doing the same jobs as men. He and Assembly Republicans eliminated funding for Planned Parenthood, which provides poor women with STD testing and pre-natal care. Wisconsin Republicans have also eliminated many pre-kindergarten programs, making it impossible for many mothers to work.

Perhaps the most draconian measure that Wisconsin Republicans have taken against women is a state law forcing women who want to terminate their pregnancies to undergo medically unnecessary and invasive ultrasounds that involve placing wands in their vaginas and then forcing the women to look at pictures of the fetal cells in their wombs. Virtually all women’s health experts and groups that oppose government interference with personal freedom have condemned the law in the strongest terms possible.

Walker has denied any involvement in the smear campaign against Burke. He even released a TV ad calling himself sympathetic to women on the issue of abortion, despite opposing abortion even in cases of rape and incest and when the mother’s life is in danger.

The question is will voters fall for the desperate anti-Hail Mary pass to save Walker, who’s divided the state perhaps more than any other governor in history while and presiding over the worst job-growth rate of any governor in the region? Or will voters rally on Tuesday against such sordid tactics and give Burke the edge by showing up to vote in a race so razor-thin that every single vote counts.

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Journal Sentinel story attacking Burke used GOP source who called Obama an anti-gay slur and said Michelle Obama is a man

UPDATED STORY: A source who was quoted this morning in a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel cover story claiming that Democrat Mary Burke was fired from Trek Bicycle has posted bizarre and offensive rants on his Facebook page, including accusations that Barack Obama is a “homo” and First Lady Michelle Obama is a man.

MJS, which has endorsed Gov. Scott Walker in the past, ran the story in which former Trek employees blasted Burke’s alleged incompetence under the headline “Conservative ex-execs say Burke forced out at Trek.” The story appeared in a prominent position under the masthead and above the newspaper fold.

The three accusers are not only die-hard Republicans but also former Trek employees. The article did not state whether they were disgruntled with Trek, but one of them apparently was fired by Trek and another, Tom Albers, now works for a major Trek competitor and has donated to Republican campaigns.

Joe Fadness, the third Burke accuser, is also a Wisconsin GOP operative.

Gary Elllerman, who posted the Facebook rants, is a known Republican dirty trickster who compared Obama’s 2008 “hope and change” slogan to a swastika. The chairman of the Jefferson County Republican Party, Ellerman ran as a fake Democrat in the 2012 recall elections.

“It’s disgusting that the state’s largest newspaper would run a sleazy tabloid hit piece based on blatant lies, but it’s even more reprehensible that their ‘source,’ a Republican Party insider who was fired from Trek for poor performance, is publicly espousing his racist, homophobic beliefs,” said a Democratic Party of Wisconsin spokewoman. “Unless they agree with him, Scott Walker and his Republican Party should immediately denounce Gary Ellerman and call for him to resign his Party leadership post.”

Journal Sentinel blogger Daniel Bice was one of three bylined writers of the story. He posted a blog this afternoon claiming that the writers tried without success to reach Ellerman before publishing the story, which was based on an article that previously appeared in the right-wing publication Wisconsin Reporter. According to Bice, that newspaper is funded by the conservative Bradley Foundation, which is headed by Walker campaign chairman Michael Grebe.

In his blog post, Brice did not defend the decision to present the incendiary story based on personal accusations made by partisan opponents so close to the election. In fact, he presented the extent of bias among his sources under the headline “Democrats pounce on Burke critic’s extreme Facebook posts.”

John Burke, Mary Burke’s brother and current Trek CEO, denied the charges made against his sister by the company’s former employees. He said Mary Burke left her job as head of overseas operations as part of a corporate restructuring.

Burke flatly denied the accusations as “complete lies.”

“Scott Walker is not going to stop at anything,” she said during a Port Washington campaign stop today. “He is a career politician who will do anything to win an election, including lies and smears, dragging a great Wisconsin company through the mud. … This type of lies and allegations frankly shouldn’t be part of politics.”

In the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s recent coverage of Mary Burke, the paper continued to accuse her of leaving Trek to go snow boarding for two years, even though she’s denied it and the paper has no proof that’s all she did during the time in question. Her supporters have expressed everything from outrage to disbelief over the newspaper’s coverage of someting so trivial in its political coverage, as though snow boarding was a derelict activity.

Although Scott Walker dropped out of Milwaukee’s Marquette University before finishing and after being disciplined for unethical campaigning for student body president, the Journal Sentinel only occasionally mentions it when covering the campaign. Burke supporters say that’s a more relevant story for voters than a candidate taking a snow-boarding vacation.

Burke holds an MBA from Harvard University School of Business.

UPDATED story includes Democratic Party of Wisconsin response and snowboarding references.

Journal Sentinel story attacking Burke used source who called Obama an anti-gay slur

A source who was quoted this morning in a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel cover story claiming that Democrat Mary Burke was fired from Trek Bicycle has posted bizarre and offensive rants on his Facebook page, including accusations that Barack Obama is a “homo” and First Lady Michelle Obama is a man.

MJS, which has endorsed Gov. Scott Walker in the past, ran the story in which former Trek employees blasted Burke’s alleged incompetence under the headline “Conservative ex-execs say Burke forced out at Trek.” The story appeared in a prominent position under the masthead and above the newspaper fold.

The three accusers are not only die-hard Republicans but also former Trek employees. The article did not state whether they were disgruntled with Trek, but one of them apparently was fired by Trek and another, Tom Albers, now works for a major Trek competitor and has donated to Republican campaigns.

Joe Fadness, the third Burke accuser, is also a Wisconsin GOP operative.

Gary Elllerman, who posted the Facebook rants, is a known Republican dirty trickster who compared Obama’s 2008 “hope and change” slogan to a swastika. The chairman of the Jefferson County Republican Party, Ellerman ran as a fake Democrat in the 2012 recall elections.

“It’s disgusting that the state’s largest newspaper would run a sleazy tabloid hit piece based on blatant lies, but it’s even more reprehensible that their ‘source,’ a Republican Party insider who was fired from Trek for poor performance, is publicly espousing his racist, homophobic beliefs,” said a Democratic Party of Wisconsin spokewoman. “Unless they agree with him, Scott Walker and his Republican Party should immediately denounce Gary Ellerman and call for him to resign his Party leadership post.”

Journal Sentinel blogger Daniel Bice was one of three bylined writers of the story. He posted a blog this afternoon claiming that the writers tried without success to reach Ellerman before publishing the story, which was based on an article that previously appeared in the right-wing publication Wisconsin Reporter. According to Bice, that newspaper is funded by the conservative Bradley Foundation, which is headed by Walker campaign chairman Michael Grebe.

In his blog post, Brice did not defend the decision to present the incendiary story based on personal accusations made by partisan opponents so close to the election. In fact, he presented the extent of bias among his sources under the headline “Democrats pounce on Burke critic’s extreme Facebook posts.”

John Burke, Mary Burke’s brother and current Trek CEO, denied the charges made against his sister by the company’s former employees. He said Mary Burke left her job as head of overseas operations as part of a corporate restructuring.

Burke flatly denied the accusations as “complete lies.”

“Scott Walker is not going to stop at anything,” she said during a Port Washington campaign stop today. “He is a career politician who will do anything to win an election, including lies and smears, dragging a great Wisconsin company through the mud. … This type of lies and allegations frankly shouldn’t be part of politics.”

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel decides to cease political endorsements

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Wisconsin’s largest newspaper, has announced that it will not make political endorsements this year.

The newspaper took a lot of heat for backing Supreme Court Justice David Prosser last year as well as Gov. Scott Walker in his recent recall election, even though the endorsements in both cases read to many people like apologies for the embattled candidates they backed.

In 2008, the newspaper endorsed President Barack Obama.

Editorial page editor David Haynes wrote in a column yesterday that making endorsements puts readers’ perceptions of the newspaper’s independence at risk during the election season.

He said the paper’s reportedly divided editorial board would continue to recommend candidates on occasion, but he called endorsements “a relic of a time when every town had more than one newspaper.” He said readers now have a wide array of commentary available.

Haynes said the newspaper’s editorial board would continue to share opinions on political issues, but they will leave the final voting decisions up to the voters.

As a Republican-leaning paper in a predominantly Democratic city surrounded by some of the nation’s most radical right-wing suburbs, MJS is in a no-win position when it makes endorsements, losing subscribers and advertisers from both sides. This was particularly true following this summer’s sharply divided gubernatorial recall race.

Still, reporters at the paper are said to be critical of the decision, accusing their bosses of wimping out.

“Inside the paper, I’m told, there’s the feeling that ‘we have two tough picks to make and we’re taking a pass,’ and the paper is less relevant because of it,” wrote Michael Patrick Leahy on Breitbart.com. The reference is to the tied race for president and the U.S. Senate race between Democrat Tammy Baldwin and Republican Tommy Thompson.

Newspaper endorsements have little impact on voters, according to studies. But many in the media view them as a responsibility to readers.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel endorses same-sex marriage

Below is the full text of a June 29 editorial in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel endorsing same-sex marriage in Wisconsin:

Time for repeal

Wisconsin backers of gay marriage should start the groundwork to repeal a constitutional amendment that bars such unions. Equal rights and national trends show it’s time.

National polls indicate the highest support yet for gay marriage. In line with that trend toward greater tolerance, New York under the leadership of Gov. Andrew Cuomo has approved a law to allow gay marriages.

But such progress toward equal rights will have to wait in Wisconsin, thanks to a constitutional amendment barring such unions and a Republican-dominated Legislature and governor unlikely to seek its repeal.

Nevertheless, we urge backers to start laying the groundwork now to follow in New York’s footsteps, if not exactly, then at least along the lines of allowing civil unions for all committed couples. Allow the state to issue licenses, and hand “marriage” over to churches.

The trend toward greater tolerance appears unmistakable.

A Pew Research Center poll found this spring that 45 percent of adults now favor allowing gay marriage and 46 percent oppose it. That’s the highest support Pew has found for allowing same-sex marriage since the center began polling on the issue in 1996.

Meanwhile, a Washington Post-ABC News poll about the same time found that 53 percent say gay marriage should be legal, marking the first time in Post-ABC polling that a majority has said so.

And a poll in New York after the recent vote showed that a majority approved of what the state Legislature there did.

In Wisconsin, a court recently ruled that a state domestic partnership registry, extending some of the same rights that married couples enjoy to unmarried couples, did not violate the constitutional amendment barring gay marriage. Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele has expressed his support for extending domestic partner benefits to unmarried county employees.

Such efforts should move forward in other communities around the state. And so should efforts to overturn the constitutional amendment and allow civil unions.

Opponents argue that granting to same-sex couples the rights and privileges of a civil union somehow endangers the institution of marriage. Nonsense. The divorce rate and the increasingly casual attitude toward commitment by heterosexual couples is a far greater threat to marriage.

Same-sex couples simply want the same benefits that heterosexual couples enjoy. That’s a matter of fairness and equal rights. Wisconsin should acknowledge that.