We the People

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. Politics and civil commentary with community columnist John Eyster.

Equality takes a step forward in Rock County

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John W. Eyster
Friday, January 24, 2014

I believe it is VERY SIGNIFICANT that last night our ROCK COUNTY BOARD with a vote of 20 to 7 took us one more step forward on the march to fulfill the AMERICAN VISION of EQUALITY for ALL PERSONS!  I want to commend and thank the members of our Rock County Board for their conscientious and thoughtful votes!

The discussion was an A+ quality civil communication.  That's the QUALITY I hope my Political Science students maintain in my classes at UW-Whitewater.  I realize we will be TESTED – TEMPTED since the course this semester is “Ethnic Politics.”  The course description reveals the facets of the study which deals with VERY CONTROVERSIAL dimensions of our American culture and politics, “The central concern of this course is to provide the student an awareness of the political development of racial and ethnic minorities in today's political arena. It will compare and contrast the development of the white ethnic communities of the 19th and 20th centuries with our modern day racial and ethnic minorities.”  The topics embrace the full range of diversity in our American culture, including:  women, aging/elderly, religions (The 5 major world religions:  Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and other religions which students select for their own research presentation.), gender, sexual orientation (LBGT).  I know I have a meaningful and challenging semester ahead.  I love the classroom dynamics!

Last night's Board meeting discussion reminded me that the MOST SIGNIFICANT FACTOR in our decision-making is INTER-PERSONAL RELATIONS!  I am an academic.  I teach the principles, structures, processes of our American government & politics.  I launch from the founding documents of our nation – the Declaration of Independence (Signed, 1776), Constitution (Signed, 1787; ratified 1789), Bill of Rights (Adopted by Congress, 1789, ratified by the states, 1791).  There is a KEY PRINCIPLE in those documents which is the basis of THE VISION of our United States of America:  EQUALITY!  When I testified last evening, I focused on the 14th Amendment (Adopted by Congress, 1866, Ratified by the States, 1868) of our US Constitution with its “Equal Protection Clause” which requires states cannot deny to any PERSON within the state's jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.  This clause has been a major provision which has informed our courts as they have ruled on what it really means to provide equal protection.  This clause is a key factor in rulings by judges that ALL PERSONS have the right to marry, including same-sex persons.

That PRINCIPLE is directly relevant to the provision of benefits to employees of Rock County for their partners if they are registered with OUR WISCONSIN DOMESTIC PARTNERSHIP REGISTRY.

We love to talk about EQUALITY!  TALK – TALK is easy… perhaps too easy.  What do YOU think?


Last evening the reality that there are PRINCIPLES which inform our attitudes and behaviors, it is REALLY INTER-PERSONAL RELATIONS which INFLUENCE our attitudes and behaviors MOST!

We know that reality from our US Supreme Court Justices as they have evolved with their interpretation of our US Constitution.  There are many US Supreme Court decisions which limited various rights of persons in the US, e.g., marriage to a person of another race, marriage to a person of the same sex, employment benefits based on gender or age or marriage status.  Review those limits!  Remember when School District of Janesville paid MARRIED MEN more than females?  Other examples YOU know about?  What is YOUR perspective?

We know that our US Supreme Court has gradually rules that such INequities are UNConstitutional.  Consider the 1967 case Loving v. Virginia in which the Supreme Court ruled Virginia's Racial Integrity Act of 1924 (anti-miscegenation statute) UNConstitutional!  EQUALITY took another step forward!  What do YOU think?

As the Supreme Court has made decisions dealing with homosexuality, the judge's knowledge and perspectives have evolved so that NOW the court is aware of the fact that many very normal, productive, loyal Americans are homosexual (gay).  The Court's decision in Lawrence v. Texas (2003) reversed its decision in Bowers v. Hardwick (1986) recognizing the right of privacy in sexual relations regardless of the sexual orientation of the persons participating.  Bottom-line:  The ruling legalized sodomy between consenting adults acting in private whatever the sex of the participants in all states.

The literature informs us that as the justices have become more aware of homosexuality they have developed different understandings of human sexuality.  The justices have learned that some of the outstanding law school students whom they hired as clerks because of their competencies were gay.  The justices, like all of us, have learned that some of our family and friends are gay.  The INTER-PERSONAL RELATIONS have made very significant impact on our attitudes and behaviors.  What is YOUR experience?

Hearing the comments by Rock County citizens at the Rock County Board meeting last evening, I became more and more aware of the INTER-PERSONAL RELATIONS for ALL of us living in Rock County.  I encourage you to read Catherine Idzerda's report on that meeting in today's Gazette, “Rock County Oks benefits for same-sex couples.”  On the basis of having been at the meeting myself and listening carefully to ALL of the statements made by citizens and Supervisors, I would compliment Catherine on her accurate report.  She has reported on the meetings of the County Finance and the Staffing committees preparing for this Board meeting so she has in-depth background on the issue and the discussion in Rock County.  THANKS to Catherine W. Idzerda for her excellent journalism!

Idzerda reports, “Perhaps one of the significant factors in the 'yes' vote was the work of Mary Kay Vukovich, a 13-year county employee who now works at Rock County Jail.  Mary had testified at the Personnel Committee meeting reporting that she is in a DOMESTIC PARTNERSHIP registered with our WISCONSIN REGISTRY.  She asserted that the real issue is, “This is about being fair and equitable.”  She brought her PERSONAL LIFE SITUATION IN PERSON to the Board last evening.  Mary had been arranging to talk with Supervisors about the Resolution over past weeks.  Concluding her comments, she said, “In voting 'yes' tonight, you say to me, as a county employee, that my family is equal.  You tell my five children that family is equal. You tell my eight grandchildren my family is equal.”

Later in the discussion, Supervisor Brent Fox talked about his no vote at the Finance Committee meeting and the subsequent change of his vote after talking with Officer Vukovich.  He testified that having analyzed the issue from every side, including the fiscal angle, he would vote YES on the Resolution.  That's a clear demonstration of the meaning and influence of INTER-PERSONAL COMMUNICATIONS – RELATIONS!

We are all persons!  In my Christian faith context, I believe that God created all persons to dwell on the earth and that he so loved the world.  The INTER-PERSONAL reality is, as I understand my faith, the REASON that God sent his son, Jesus of Nazareth.  INCARNATION – a real person!  What is YOUR faith?

I am praying that the SPIRIT of the Rock County Board meeting last evening will diffuse throughout ROCK COUNTY.  I believe that our ROCK COUNTY BOARD took the RIGHT STEP in the march toward FULL EQUALITY moving toward the fulfillment of the PRINCIPLE and VISION of EQUALITY in our United States of America!  Commendation and gratitude to our elected Board Supervisors! 

If you want to communicate with your Board Supervisor, use the Rock County's official list “Supervisors & Districts.”  You will be able to find her/his name, address, phone and County email (IF s/he has chosen to have one.  It is always meaningful to say, “THANK YOU!”

I am CONVINCED that our Rock County Board took the RIGHT STEP forward moving us toward FULL EQUALITY.  I am proud and grateful!  Are YOU?

John W. Eyster lives in the Edgerton area. He is an adjunct professor assigned with the online/distance education faculty of Viterbo University, LaCrosse. He continues his personal mission supporting democracy/civics education in Wisconsin K-12 schools through Project Citizen, We the People, Discovering Democracy (Milton HS). John is a community blogger and is not a part of The Gazette staff or management.

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