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This past weekend I attended the Democratic Party of Wisconsin's state convention. In addition to the usual candidate and elected official speeches, there was one part of the convention I was particularly looking forward to. Mike Tate was slated to speak on behalf of Fair Wisconsin, the state campaign working to defeat the civil unions and marriage ban that will be on the ballet in our November.

I was interested to see what kind of reception the issue would get with the diehard Dems of our state. I wanted to see if our base could be anywhere near as fired up about the proposed ban as the GOP base. Leadership of the state party has been overwhelmingly supportive. In fact, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin is the one of the only state parties in the country to come out against a constitutional ban on civil unions and marriage. But I wasn't sure if party members would be quite as receptive. Would they rally around the issue as another reason to fight the right wing? Or would having to talk about gay people simply make them uncomfortable?  

Even though I was pretty optimistic going into the weekend, what I saw surprised me. The amount of support and passion in the room went far beyond what I expected. Almost every speaker mentioned Fair Wisconsin's efforts and encouraged Dems to stand against the amendment. During Tate's speech, more people stood up to cheer in the convention hall than at almost any other point. And I think it was the first time I've seen some of the more rough and tough labor guys on their feet yelling and cheering about the rights of gay people in our state.

Part of the Tate's speech told the story of a Wisconsin couple that had been together for 15 years when one partner died. The other was unable to ever obtain her partner's medial records, shut out of funeral planning process, and even had her legal rights to their daughter threatened.

"When the person you choose to spend your life with is dying, the last thing you should ever, ever have to think about is whether you have enough legal documents to see them in the hospital," Tate told the crowd. "That's not how we treat people here in Wisconsin."

And it seems like the Democratic base in this state agrees.

Originally posted to Rachel in Wisconsin on Tue Jun 13, 2006 at 01:17 PM PDT.

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