Clergy misconduct bill
clears state Legislature
MADISON -- On the final two days of the regular legislative session, both houses of the state Legislature approved a bill addressing the issue of sexual misconduct by members of the clergy. The bill goes to Governor Jim Doyle, who has pledged to sign it.
The proposal, Senate Bill 207, was sponsored by State Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) and State Representative Margaret Krusick (D-Milwaukee). They introduced the bill last summer.
Bill's major provisions
The bill: 1) requires clergy to report suspected sexual assault of a child; 2) extends the statute of limitations to give prosecutors more time to bring criminal charges against perpetrators and victims more time to sue those responsible for civil damages; and 3) clarifies the conditions under which children who are sexually abused may sue religious
organizations, including churches and dioceses, for actions of offending clergy.
Senate Bill 207 had the backing of the Wisconsin Catholic Conference (WCC), Wisconsin Jewish Conference, Wisconsin Council of Churches, Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault, and Prevent Child Abuse Wisconsin. The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) opposed the bill.
Reporting of sexual abuse
Wisconsin's law governing child abuse and neglect, like those in most states, requires certain professions who see children regularly in the course of their duties to report instances where they believe a child has been abused or neglected or when a child might be at risk of such injuries. Anyone in these professions is a "mandatory reporter." Full story ...
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Wisconsin legislature approves proposed amendment defining marriage
MADISON -- Early on the morning of March 12, the Wisconsin Senate approved a proposed constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between only one man and one woman. It also would prohibit any legal status "identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals."
The 20-13 vote followed over 10 hours of debate. The state Assembly had previously approved the measure on a 68-27 vote.
The approval by both houses of the legislature is the first rung in a three-step process. If lawmakers approve the legislation in the next session convening in January of 2005, the amendment would go before state voters for final approval in an April 2005 referendum.
State Senator Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau), sponsor of the amendment, countered critics who said it was an attempt to write discrimination into the state constitution. "This amendment is about limiting and defining marriage," said Fitzgerald. "In Wisconsin this is what marriage means."
Wisconsin statutes already define marriage as a contract between a husband and a wife and do not recognize same-sex marriages. Those supporting the amendment had feared a judge could rule the statute unconstitutional and require the state to recognize gay marriages as has happened in Massachusetts. Full story ...