This week, I’m posting some of my “greatest hits” from a blog I wrote for the Madison.com Web site. They’ve got a new online community and these blog posts were about to be deleted, but they were kind enough to ask me if I’d like to find them a new home.
It’s been great to look back at the years (2003-2007) that I lived in Madison.
But one of the low points of my time there was when the state passed a ban on gay marriage in the fall 2006 election. I was so angry about it that I was featured in a front-page article talking about the aftermath. It was the deciding factor in my move from Wisconsin. Madison is a fantastic place to live, but I didn’t feel like I could be a supportive citizen of a place that wasn’t supportive of me (or give them my tax dollars).
There were legislators who proposed and passed this discriminatory law to “protect” marriage, and between the three of them they’d had something like seven marriages, so it was laughable to me that they were protecting marriage.
But the main architect of the movement was one Julaine Appling, a woman from rural Wisconsin who was head of a lobbying group. That group was fed funds from Focus on the Family and ultimately won the vote, 59 to 41.
Julaine was quite an interesting character – a single woman who lived with another woman (!) but spoke of marriage as the ultimate glory to God. I felt then, as I do now, that something just isn’t adding up with Appling. (Or to borrow the title of a Prince song, “something in the water does not compute.”)
Here’s my post from November 2007.
ARE YOU THERE, JULAINE? IT’S ME, PATRICK
Before I was gifted with a blog here at Post, I was infamous for being a poster at the Madison.com forums. Although I posted on a number of topics and interests that I had, I had a reputation for a while of being a “one-trick pony”, because I wrote an AWFUL lot about the marriage amendment.
It’s been a while since I’ve talked about how hurt and angry the passage of that legislation made me – as a man, as a person of faith, as a taxpayer – and it’s been quite some time since I expressed my RAGE and disappointment in the people and the legislators that got behind the amendment. And I certainly haven’t chatted very much about my archnemesis and frenemy Julaine Appling.
Nearly a year’s gone by, but many of the questions that I posed at the time where the debate was open and the amendment was undecided have not really gone away.
Ms. Appling is a part of an organization that had been called the “Family Research Institute” and is now called “Wisconsin Family Council”. Aside from the big push for the passage of the amendment, however, the council seems to be lying low. A few cursory mentions of work related to the council’s pro-life stance and to birth control have been made on the website, but it remains mostly unchanged since last year. Maybe because this organization is a lobbyist group masquerading in a very warm, cuddly, Christian sheep’s clothing.
The question I keep asking – and never seem to find the answer to – is, What is this organization doing to support Wisconsin families? Conservatives often like to suggest that liberals are guilty of social engineering; however, an organization like the WFC seems to exist for precisely that purpose.
As I asked over and over again during the debate, if this is truly an organization to strengthen families, where is the support for Wisconsin families and some of the things that are tearing them apart?
If Julaine and Co. are interested in divorce rates in Wisconsin, why isn’t this group doing more to coordinate support and counseling for people who are about to get married? (Legally, of course.)
Why isn’t this group holding educational seminars about finance and home ownership – concepts that are non-partisan, and have a HUGE impact on the success rate of a marriage and the health of a family unit?
Why isn’t this group being part of the effort to help address the enormous challenges that drugs and chemical dependency wreak in Wisconsin? Marriages and families are ripped apart all the time by meth use and by the state’s reputation as a two-fisted-drinking, one-handed-driving state?
Indeed, I keep thinking over and over that, on paper, a group like the Council could do great good in supporting families and children, and helping them navigate through the rough spots that families experience. But the Family Council doesn’t seem to be interested in families as anything else other than a general concept, one that mobilizes a financially generous fanbase to fund their crusade.
I’m thinking perhaps they could change their name again to the “Wisconsin Bedroom Council”, as they seem to be most interested (if not preoccupied!) with what happens there. As long as you’re married and in the process of procreation, they’re very interested. Once you actually pop out the kid? Not so much. Abusive husband? Credit card debt? Kids out of control? Oh, pity. Sorry, all lines are busy now. Please try again later…..
Let’s pick up the Good Book, folks, and open it! Not the Bible, but rather, Webster’s Dictionary. Open it to the X’s. Not for “x-rated” but rather, to the word “xenophobic”. Testify! I was awfully mistaken when I suggested that hearty Christian folks like Ms. Appling, Scott Fitzgerald, and Mark Gundrum were homophobic. They aren’t! Their phobias are not that limited!
These lovely men and women are xenophobic. Yes, our xenophobic friends fear strangers and people who are quite unlike them. They have great love in their hearts for God’s fellow children and the good people of Wisconsin. And by good people, that means “other white Christian people I went to high school with who are exactly like me….or ANYONE who gives me money.”
Honestly, I’m not sure what to think anymore. This is so NOT about me at this point – I’m still on the fence as to whether staying in Madison is worth compromising my beliefs and accepting the judgement that the majority of people have made. But it’s hard to look at people like Julaine Appling and some of our elected officials and wonder why people aren’t concerned, or anrgy, about their influence in our personal lives. I wonder when these people will be unmasked for what they really are.
I’ve figured them out. But then again, I guess it takes a one-trick pony to know one…….
Footnote: Appling has established a social media presence since this post was originally written. She’s on Facebook and also Twitter (as “sixfooter”).
In August 2009, Wisconsin implemented some limited domestic partner protections via a statewide domestic partner registry. Appling’s group is contesting these protections on the basis of the 2006 amendment, which banned gay marriage “or anything substantially similar.”