Madison Politicans Reject Parts of Oath

Politicians in Madison, Wisconsin will soon be able to add to their oath of office, but also reject the parts of the state and federal constitutions they don’t agree with.

The idea began when the state amended its constitution to ban gay marriage and civil unions. This ban resulted in a member of the city's Equal Opportunities Commission resigning because he opposed the traditional oath.

The members of the Equal Opportunities Commission are in charge of protecting civil rights and they feel compromised in promising to uphold laws they feel are discrimantory against gay and lesbian citizens of Wisconsin.

The City Council in Madison voted 13-4 on Tuesday to allow elected officials and city appointees a way to add to their oath of office a rejection of the new constitutional ban that passed in November by 59% of voters.

The resolution was passed after 45 minutes of debate and includes a supplemental statement showing their protest to the ban.

Alderman Cindy Thomas of Madison's 20th District voted against the proposal claiming the council's action sets a dangerous precedent.

"You can't weasel your way out of your oath," she said. "When people from afar hear about our vote on this, we will become a laughingstock."

It is Wisconsin law that public officials must take an oath pledging to uphold the state and federal constitutions. Those who oppose this debate are concerned that this has become a way for politicians to only uphold the laws they agree with, rather than the laws as they are.

Madison's City Attorney Michael May says the "anti-oath" is voluntary and given in addtion to the formal oath of office and is constitutional.

"We are not violating the state law," said Ald. Mike Verveer, 4th District. "We are not modifying the oath of office. ... Many of us will breathe a lot easier if we are allowed to make this additional statement."

Wisconsin prides itselt as a lab for progressive ideas, but customizing the Constitution may not be one the rest of the country wants to embrace.

The Wisconsin State Journal states in an article:

The Madison City Council was wrong to invite city officials to modify their oath of office by adding a protest against Wisconsin's new constitutional ban on gay marriage. It's now up to officials to correct the mistake.

They should not sign the anti-oath.

The Wisconsin State Journal editorial board is proud of its record in support of gay and lesbian rights and in opposition to the ban on gay marriages and civil unions. But as we explained in an editorial on Sunday, the anti-oath is anti-democratic, arrogant and shortsighted.

Good As You writes:

The measure is believed to be the first of its kind anywhere in the nation, a fact that makes the uber-progressives in Berkeley wonder where they went wrong.

Other Wisconsin politicians and officials believe it's a slippery slope to future debate: What other laws will they protest against and choose not to uphold?

Mike's Anti-Dissertation Blog writes:

I'd been hearing lately that certain government officials were going to add something to their standard oath of office that was against the stupid ban on gay marriage. As much as I hate the ban, and find it incredibly mean-spirited and unconstitutional, I was against a new oath that picked out one thing the electees may not like.

Of course, I assumed the oath was something like "but I will not respect the ban on gay marriage." It's a good sentiment, in my eyes, but dangerous. As a representative of government, one has to enforce and adhere to the laws, regardless of their stupidity.

Engulfed Cathedral writes:

What can we learn from this? Well, when elected officials are willing to violate the law on principal and they make no effort to conceal that fact, indeed, when they publicize it, perhaps such a stance indicates that, statewide referendums or no, there are just some issues that aren't a matter for legal regulation, and if one tries to regulate them, one is simply ignored. Maybe any attempt to legally mandate bigotry, even when it's supported by a thin democratic majority, is one of those things that thinking people have absolutely no problem ignoring.

Well, Wisconsin residents are still wondering what other laws their representatives will choose to ignore.

Posted by Dana J. Tuszke at January 21, 2007 8:41 PM
Comment #204342


You’ve unfortunately omitted a portion of the argument from Mike’s Anti-Dissertation Blog that is crucial to the point he was leading up to in the portion you quoted:

However, that’s not the oath’s addendum. According to John Nichols of the Capital Times:
By a 13-4 vote Tuesday night, the council approved a plan to permit officials who so choose to swear their oaths to uphold the state Constitution and then add a pledge to “work to eliminate the (recently enacted ban on gay marriages and civil unions) from the Constitution and work to prevent any discriminatory impacts from its application.”

This oath, I believe, is excellent. It acknowledges the law, but states that the representative thinks it’s wrong and will work within the law to change it.

Posted by: Jarandhel at January 21, 2007 9:32 PM
Comment #204344

Welcome to life in NY. Our Republican Gov and George Bush have something in common. I guess to Repubs. rule of law only matters if you agree with the law.

Posted by: 037 at January 21, 2007 9:50 PM
Comment #204345

Queers are, by and large, citizens. They are also, by and large, taxpayers. They earn more money, on average, than the median personal income in the U.S. They earn more money because many are educated and employed in professional occupations.
Why don’t states pass a laws that restrict the right of queers to participate in public life (like obtaining marriage certificates to marry the person of THEIR choice), and, include within the law, forgiveness from taxes, since they are unable to participate as full citizens? This will never, ever happen, because, not withstanding any silly, transient law that is passed by government, they will insist that the money be paid.

Also, your statement at the end, Dana, about residents wondering which laws their representative will choose to follow is certainly appropriate to the president, (the one with a small “w”), who picks and chooses at his convenience .

Posted by: charles Ross at January 21, 2007 9:59 PM
Comment #204368

The Oath of Office has failed a myriad of times to keep politicians and some civil servants honest. As a measure to insure civil servants uphold the law, oaths have been dismal failure.

Oaths of office are an anachronism from a time when the public believed the oaths were necessary to insure appropriate political and governmental behavior.

That said: If we, as a nation, decide to make it a crime to fail to uphold the oath of office, punishable by maximum mandatory sentence without prospect of pardon, our nation would vastly improve its governance and restore trust between politicians and the people.

America is losing its grip on the fundamental cornerstone of strength in governance, the ‘rule of law’. We are sliding down that slippery slope toward the rule of men. And if our founding fathers were to see what is happening, they would say fix it, or prepare to lose all that was once great about America rooted in its founding documents.

America is being ruled by corporate board rooms and CEO’s, who are now even being asked to write legislation and policy. We are being ruled by politicians who exempt themselves from the very laws which we must be imprisoned for infracting. We are being ruled those who no longer believe our founding Constitution is adequate or sufficient and seek to circumvent the arduous amendment process in pursuit of their own agendas for transforming our government to their benefit.

The Democrat’s and Republican’s Ethics Reform package passed this last week is a perfect example. The gravest breach of ethics in government is the purchase of legislation with dollars by special interests, whose interests are detrimental to the nation and her people. The Ethics Reform package failed completely to address that issue in the form of campaign financing and lobbying with campaign dollars.

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 22, 2007 2:08 AM
Comment #204384

Isn’t this the equivalent of signing statements? I find it amusing that the first argument presented against the resolution was a fear that “we will become a laughingstock” when enshrining prejudice into a states constitution should be embarassing enough. This brings a whole new meaning to the phrase “cheese head”. At least some people are willing to stand up to the juggernaut of the politics of hate and speak for the rights of our fellow citizens.

Posted by: Dave1-20-2009 at January 22, 2007 10:44 AM
Comment #204404

Dana: Why is it that we only see the injustice in something when the other side is doing it?

David R.: Money is just a lubricant for free speech. Free speech that is well lubricated can penetrate the political body much easier.

Posted by: jlw at January 22, 2007 1:08 PM
Comment #204405

One Nation Under God?How About one City or one State Above the Law.This will spread like Wild Fire through out the Country and cause Cival unrest like nothing we have ever seen.This truly is a clash of Cultures.

Posted by: gw at January 22, 2007 1:11 PM
Comment #204416

Why not take an oath to not uphold the safety laws on the highway.

Just don’t forget to remind the police officer that is taking you to jail that you took that oath.

I hope a TV camera is there to record the smile on the police officer’s face.

Posted by: tomh at January 22, 2007 2:25 PM
Comment #204419

Well, the Constitution is just a piece of paper, so I don’t understand what the (Conservative) fuss is all about.

Posted by: Mental Wimp at January 22, 2007 2:53 PM
Comment #204420

I have a question. Where does:

work to eliminate the (recently enacted ban on gay marriages and civil unions) from the Constitution and work to prevent any discriminatory impacts from its application.

take an oath to not uphold
Unless of course you equate enforcing the new amendment with discrimination

Posted by: Dave1-20-2009 at January 22, 2007 2:57 PM
Comment #204439

jlw, WRONG!

I am the CEO of Exxon/Mobil, and you are a Senator coming up for reelection. I call you and say, I would like support your reelection campaign with 1 million dollars, but, tell me, would that be a wise move on my part? You say, “If I were you, I would consider it a wise move.”

The Money makes this entire conversation have an entirely different meaning. Money is a form of speech which carries a very different message than words without money attached. The proferring of money implies to anyone with a lick of sense about money, a quid pro quo - an exchange of equal value between the two parties to the transfer of the money.

This is a prime example of ‘common sense’. We all know what receiving money from someone implies even if nothing is asked at the time the money is offered. Asking for money carries the same implication, especially in politics. An attractive lady on a street corner with a short skirt and bulging bosom looks into my car at the stop light and asks, “Got $100 dollars?”

She is not asking if I have $100 in the bank, or lying loosely in my pocket, or for a handout. The money gives that innocent question a very un-innocent meaning with widespread common understanding of what that meaning is.

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 22, 2007 5:00 PM
Comment #204440

To reinforce what David R. Remer says: Activities for which the predominant intent is communication are speech. Those acts of communication in which the predominant intent is something else (i.e., giving money to someone) are not speech and should not be protected as such. Now a clever debater might say at this point, “How about when I give money to an advertising agency to place an announcement?” Yes, that’s a component of speech, but incidental to the primary intent of communication and it is protected. However, the money portion is commerce and can be regulated as such. Giving money to a politician’s campaign is not speech, it is intended to get that person elected by influencing the course of their campaign and, perhaps, to influence that politician’s stand on an issue, not by suasion but by coercion. The only communication going on is saying that you support the politician. Ain’t protected.

Posted by: Mental Wimp at January 22, 2007 5:12 PM
Comment #204474

Hmmm….wonder what the reaction would be if one of these elected officals added to his/her oath that they would work to overturn the constitutional right to an abortion.

Posted by: Carnak at January 22, 2007 8:46 PM
Comment #204482

David R. Remer: jlw, WRONG! WRONG? I will admit that my command of the english language is wanting, it was the subject that gave me the most misery while I was in school. What I thought I was doing was using one sentence to say what you said in four paragraphs.

All speech is free. I am a poor man that can’t afford to lubricate my free speech, the CEO of Exxon/Mobil has plenty of lubricant and he uses it to get his speech heard, while I and millions like me can’t. He is able to bribe the politicians and distort the political process. This is the way it has always been done and I am all for putting an end to it.

Usually the money works. There are a few examples of where it didn’t. One of my favorite examples involved Teddy Roosevelt of course. Many of the robber barons contributed greatly to his 1904 election campaign.

In his annual message to the people in 1905, Roosevelt focused mainly on the need for greater regulation and control of business. This prompted a comment from the steel baron Henry Frick ” We bought the son of a bitch and then he did not stay put.”

Posted by: jlw at January 22, 2007 9:01 PM
Comment #205551

Some of you are missing my point.

I have no problem if two men or two women wish to be “wed”.

I have a PROBLEM with politicians choosing which laws they are not going to follow.

Plain and simple.

Posted by: Dana J. Tuszke at January 29, 2007 12:48 AM
Comment #205820

Nothing is ever plain and simple.

For example, your use of quotes indicates a predisposed opposition to same sex marriage by define it as something not real, in name only. Also, the statment made by the Council authorized officials to sign a statement that they would (1) work on overturning the ban and (2) proactively work on making sure the new law wouldn’t impact the effects of anti-discrimination laws.

So your premise that they are not following the law is wrong… Ummm, maybe it is plain and simple. Your premise is not “missed”, it’s just wrong.

Posted by: Dave1-20-2009 at January 30, 2007 1:39 PM
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