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MADISON, Wis. - Gov. Scott Walker and Democratic challenger Mary Burke are sparring over same-sex marriage, and the issue could become a dividing point in the 2014 governor's race.
Walker answered questions from reporters on the issue after an event at Madison College Monday. He said the attorney general is obligated to appeal Judge Barbara Crabb's ruling calling the same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional. Walker supported the ban in 2006 but now said stating his current position on the issue does not matter.
"I voted for it, I'm not talking about changing a position at all," Walker said. "I'm just pointing out that the only way this will change legally -- the voters had their say in 2006 -- and the only way this will change is ultimately a higher court after this process goes through here or across the country would change it, or if eventually the voters would change it."
Burke spoke to reporters about the issue after touring Madison business Quince and Apple Monday, and said that Walker is waffling on whether he believes gay couples should be able to get married in Wisconsin.
"I think the people of Wisconsin would like to hear what the governor thinks," Burke said. "I know as governor I'm going to be clear on how I stand on issues. It seems pretty political to me that he seems now to be waffling on whether he supports gay marriage or he doesn't."
Walker said his position is clear and Burke needs a lesson in "government 101" because she doesn't understand the governor can't arbitrarily change the constitution. He said he felt voters deserved to know what he and Burke thought on whether Act 10, the bill repealing most collective bargaining rights for state employees, should remain in state law.
"I would suggest that where people stand on Act 10 is infinitely more important than where people stand on the issues you started asking me about because that actually matters to the future," Walker said Monday.
Burke argued the governor's position on marriage was important for people to know.
"It's about leadership, about being clear on a stance, particularly when something is discriminatory," Burke said.
Marquette law professor Charles Franklin said it could become an issue in the campaign.
"For moderates and independents and also for those Walker/Obama voters that we've heard about who also favor same-sex marriage by 2-1, I think there you see the potential for the issue to be one issue in the mix that shifts people's views of the candidates," Franklin said.
Franklin said the latest Marquette Poll shows that overall 55 percent of voters now support same-sex marriages, and the polling numbers have also shown a mid-50s average of support for same-sex marriage across the country.
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