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Gov. Quinn urges Wisconsin to undo ban against gay marriage

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Is Wisconsin the outlier in the traditionally accepting Midwest culture? Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn suggested that's the case when it comes to gay marriage, and he's urging Wisconsin to undo its ban.

Gov. Quinn made his comments at the National Governors Association annual meeting that wrapped up Sunday, August 4th in Milwaukee.

Gov. Quinn says rights should be equal across the region.

When the Supreme Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, Germantown couple Dennis Kohler and his partner, Pat Brown immediately thought of getting married outside of Wisconsin.

"How do we find out if Dennis and I can go to Iowa and get married and then come back and file joint taxes?" Brown said.

With its ban on gay marriage, Wisconsin is becoming an island in the Midwest.

In 2009, Iowa became the third state in the country to allow gay marriage.

Last week, gay marriage became legal in Minnesota.

Gov. Quinn says he would sign a bill to legalize gay marriage, but it's tied up in the Legislature.

"I hope folks in Wisconsin get the governor and the Legislature to follow the lead of Illinois hopefully and also Iowa and Minnesota," Gov. Quinn said.

"In our case, unlike the other states that you mentioned, there isn't even an ability to address that statutorily.  It's clear in the constitution, we just don't even go down that path," Gov. Walker said.

At the National Governors Association for a meeting in Milwaukee, Gov. Quinn noted that the Midwest is known for its acceptance.

"We don't want folks in Iowa or Minnesota having more rights than people in Wisconsin or Illinois. It just isn't fair," Gov. Quinn said.

Gov. Walker says gay marriage won't be addressed in Wisconsin anytime soon.

"It's in our constitution.  It's not something we could change even if we wanted to.  It's up to the voters.  They changed it years ago. They confirmed what marriage should be, and it's not something we hear one way or the other," Gov. Walker said.

Wisconsin changed its constitution in 2006 to ban gay marriage, but voters' views have changed since then. Nearly half support the idea, according to a recent survey.

"It's important that we show our country and the world that marriage equality is all about fairness," Gov. Quinn said.

There is no bill before the Legislature to reverse Wisconsin's ban, but Kohler and Brown believe it will happen someday.

"This is history that in 10 or 20 years they're going to look back and say, 'why couldn't gay people get married? It seems crazy.' Just like we look back now and say 'why couldn't we have interracial marriages?'" Kohler said.

The process to change things in Wisconsin could take a decade. An identical bill would have to pass in two consecutive sessions of the Legislature -- a four-year period, and if passed both times, it would have to be followed by a majority voter approval in a statewide referendum.

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