MADISON (WKOW) -- Nearly one week after U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb ruled Wisconsin's same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional, state Republican leaders remain largely silent on the issue.
While Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen (R-Wisconsin) leads the fight to uphold the ban, no Republicans in leadership roles in state government have offered opinions on the ban's constitutionality or the hundreds of same-sex marriages taking place across the state.
That stands in stark contrast to a few short years ago, when Scott Walker ran for Governor in 2010 on a platform that included rolling back domestic partnership benefits because he felt they were in violation of the state's ban.
"In Milwaukee County, I actually vetoed a resolution creating domestic partner benefits," Walker told 27 News on October 28, 2010. "The constitutional amendment was pretty clear. It defined marriage as between one man and one woman and defined anything that takes its place as a contradiction to that."
But since Judge Crabb's ruling, Gov. Walker has only stated his support for Van Hollen's appeals, telling reporters in Milwaukee County on Thursday that his personal opinion on the issue doesn't matter.
"My position has been clear. I voted in the past. It really doesn't matter," said Gov. Walker (R-Wisconsin).
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) was a lead sponsor of the constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.
"To set up strong public policy to basically say that the only type of marriage that will be recognized is the marriage between one man and one woman," said Sen. Fitzgerald in an interview with 27 News on March 8, 1997.
But like Gov. Walker and every other top Republican, Sen. Fitzgerald isn't saying anything about same-sex marriage this week.
"It would have been surprising four or five or ten years ago. Today its not as surprising because its an increasingly tough issue for Republicans," said Michael Wagner, a UW-Madison Journalism Professor who is an expert on partisan politics.
Wagner says it is no accident the reluctance to speak on same-sex marriage comes as poll numbers supporting it are now over 50 percent, as the last two Marquette Law School political polls have shown.
But Wagner also says staying silent on the issue isn't the worst political strategy for a Republican politician, because people are likely to ascribe their own views to politicians they like.
"And so if he doesn't say anything, those opposed to same-sex marriage are likely to say, 'oh he's probably still with us on this issue' and those who might be moderating might say, 'oh his silence means that maybe he's changing'," said Wagner. "And so, by saying nothing, he has the opportunity to appeal to both kinds of voters without ever having to appeal to both kinds of voters."
Sen. Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend), who is also running to replace U.S. Rep. Tom Petri in Wisconsin's 6th Congressional District, is the only GOP lawmaker to take a stand of any kind on the issue to this point.
"I'm extremely disappointed by this ruling, although I'm not surprised," Sen. Grothman wrote shortly after Judge Crabb's ruling. "As we've seen again and again, liberal judges are using their courtrooms to advance their extreme left-wing agenda because the people reject their philosophy any time the issue is put to a vote."
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