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Democrats want to remove marriage definition in constitution (UPDATE)

A.J. Blanchet, middle left, of Madison, and Dallas Peters, right, of Madison, march down King Street in Madison, Wis., during a rally Friday, June 26, 2015. Gay marriage has been legal in Wisconsin for months, but supporters still trumpeted a U.S. Supreme Court ruling Friday legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide with relief and joy, saying it cements same-sex unions in the state. (AP Photo/Wisconsin State Journal, Steve Apps)

A.J. Blanchet (middle left) and Dallas Peters (right), both of Madison, march down King Street in Madison during a rally Friday. Gay marriage has been legal in Wisconsin for months, but supporters still trumpeted a U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide. (AP Photo/Wisconsin State Journal, Steve Apps)

By DANA FERGUSON
Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin Democrats on Monday called for the elimination of nullified language in the state’s constitution that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

Lawmakers held a news conference to introduce the resolution after the U.S. Supreme Court decision Friday legalizing gay marriage nationwide. State Reps. JoCasta Zamarripa, D-Milwaukee, and Mark Spreitzer, D-Beloit, applauded the court’s decision and said Wisconsin’s constitution should be amended to reflect it.

“Finally victory is ours, but with this bill we want to ensure that our beloved state of Wisconsin is on the right side of history by removing this discriminatory language from our constitution,” Zamarripa said.

The measure is largely symbolic because a federal appeals court struck down the state’s same-sex marriage ban last year. But Spreitzer said it’s important to give voters an opportunity to amend the constitution. Voters in 2006 amended the constitution to include the definition.

“Even though it’s not enforceable, it would really be embarrassing to the state of Wisconsin if this language continued to be part of our constitution,” Spreitzer said. “We really need to give the opportunity to show that the voters have changed their minds.”

Republican Gov. Scott Walker, a likely 2016 presidential candidate, last week said states should have the power to define marriage. Walker’s spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Monday about the resolution.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, at a press conference Monday said the move from Democrats was a way to gain favor among voters.

“The Supreme Court has already decided. Gov. Walker has said we’re going to live with that ruling, so it seems like it’s a lot more political,” Vos said.

Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt, R-Fond du Lac, said the state should eliminate its Domestic Partnership Registry in light of the court decision. Thiesfeldt says the domestic partnership law is like “marriage lite” and is discriminatory in that it doesn’t include heterosexual couples.

Democrats said they would be willing to discuss eliminating the registry, but didn’t want the measure rolled into the budget, as Thiesfeldt suggested.

The Democrats’ bill would have to be approved by the Legislature in this session and the next before it would go before voters.

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