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Senate supports ban on sexual discrimination

November 30, 2006

The UW-River Falls Student Senate threw support toward the efforts of Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, in drafting a proposal for a state constitutional amendment banning discrimination based on sexual orientation.

After the ballots were tallied following the Nov. 7 election, the proposed statewide marriage amendment was enacted, banning the legal recognition of marriage between same-sex couples.

The amendment states that “Only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state.

A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized in this state.”

Student Senator Craig Witte proposed Student Senate support Erpenbach’s amendment and discussed the effects the marriage amendment will have on professors in the UW System.

Witte said those who teach in the UW System may see the amendment as a deterrent and go somewhere else.

The wording of the second sentence of the amendment, which limits the rights of same-sex couples, will not allow professors in same-sex relationships to receive the same benefits as those in heterosexual partnerships.

“A lot of them are threatening to leave,” Witte said of professors at UW-Madison in particular.

Erpenbach’s amendment to the state constitution, which is in the drafting stages, will not be proposed until January.

"It hasn’t been rushed due to legislature," Legislative Affairs Director Mike Freedman said.

As the amendment has not yet been brought in front of the state legislature, Witte said Senate should show its support due to the overwhelming opposition to the original marriage amendment by the student body in the recent election.

“We can’t lobby in support of [Erpenbach’s amendment] until we vote on it,” Witte said.

Discussion began on the topic as Senate Vice President Bethany Barnett asked that the issue be tabled until January and brought up again once Erpenbach’s amendment is drafted and proposed to the state legislature.

“We support what he’s doing,” Diversity Issues Director Ashley Olson said, adding that Senate should take a stance on the drafting of Erpenbach’s amendment.

Olson then discussed and motioned that an amendment be made to Witte’s original motion.

“I motion that we make a friendly amendment to support Senator Erpenbach’s initiative to draft the amendment,” she said.

The motion passed with only two senators casting dissenting votes.

Other Senate news

  • Facilities and Fees Board Chair Jim Vierling introduced a motion to increase the pay for some student senators. The Senate president currently earns $225 a month, while the vice-president, directors and board chairs earn $150 a month. The UWRF Senate is one of the lowest-paid university senates in Wisconsin. Vierling considers the senators’ current earnings to be unsatisfactory for the tasks they carry out. In his motion, Vierling pointed out that UW-Platteville’s Student Senate members are paid more than the members of the UWRF Senate. Both institutions are equal in size, so Vierling proposed increases in pay be implemented at the beginning of the 2007-08 academic year for those entering at least their second semester of service.
  • Chancellor Don Betz addressed the Senate, informing members of his plans for the University and explaining the Strategic Planning and Energy Initiatives that are underway.
  • Dean of Student Development and Campus Diversity Blake Fry addressed the Senate, reviewing the results of the National Survey of Student Engagement. The survey was conducted during spring semester and asked questions of seniors and first-year students.
  • The Campus Safety Walk will take place at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday. Students are invited to participate.

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