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University Committee statement on marriage amendment

October 25, 2006

Note: This statement was written and endorsed by the executive committee of the UW–Madison Faculty Senate: Robert Mathieu, astronomy, chair; Linda Graham, botany; Ann Hoyt, consumer science; Jane Hutchison, art history; Bruce Klein, pediatrics; and William Tracy, agronomy.

“The proposed constitutional amendment to restrict the legal status of people in relationships other than traditional marriages will harm the intellectual capacity of both the University of Wisconsin–Madison and the state of Wisconsin.

The UW–Madison Faculty Senate is on record in saying that the amendment represents a dangerous erosion of protections against harassment and discrimination. This legislation would institutionalize intolerance in our state. On these grounds, we state again our strong opposition to this amendment.

Recently, media articles and letters have lamented the departure of engineering Professor Rob Carpick to the University of Pennsylvania as a result of his feeling an increasing spirit of intolerance in Wisconsin. We emphasize that the loss of Carpick is a bellwether of broader intellectual losses across the state. Innovative and creative people thrive in open climates that support all individuals and foster thinking without bounds.

This amendment has and will continue to inhibit the recruitment and retention of the highest quality faculty and staff at the university. For example, UW–Madison stands out as the only Big Ten university that does not offer domestic partner benefits. More broadly, high-tech industries, our agricultural research, our government agencies, our financial institutions, and our K-12 educational system all rely on the innovative ideas of people deeply committed to openness and exploration.

Many such people are in marriages as defined in the amendment; the amendment does not threaten them directly. But that misses a far more important point. Narrowness of thought with respect to people’s domestic relationships signals an intolerant climate in Wisconsin, and raises concern about restrictive perspectives in all facets of life. As a consequence, not only are pioneering thinkers leaving Wisconsin, they also are choosing not to come to Wisconsin in the first place. This can only serve to undermine both our economic growth and our standing as a leading state of our country.

Perhaps most importantly, this legislation is inconsistent with our faculty’s commitment to provide a broad education to the students of Wisconsin. We cannot hope to have our students open their minds to the consideration of all that is at the forefront of human endeavors while we tell them that certain relationships between people “shall not be (legally) valid or recognized in this state.”

Many of us chose to come to Wisconsin because of its longstanding tradition of progressive open-mindedness. We urge our fellow citizens to maintain that honorable and valuable heritage by voting against the proposed constitutional amendment.”