WASHINGTON -- Democrats in the Wisconsin state legislature launched an effort to repeal the state's constitutional ban on marriage equality Thursday, as a legal challenge makes its way through the court system.
“A growing majority of Wisconsinites believe the ban on marriage equality does not reflect their belief in how the state should recognize our families,” said state Sen. Tim Carpenter (D), who is openly gay and the lead sponsor of the new legislation, in a statement. “We believe that it is time to give the people of our state the opportunity to remove unwanted constitutional barriers to marriage equality.”
In 2006, voters in Wisconsin approved the ban on marriage and civil unions for gays and lesbians by a 59 percent margin.
"This is the first genuine attempt to have the legislature repeal the ban," Carpenter spokesman Stuart Ewy told The Huffington Post. "All 15 Democratic senators have signed on as co-authors, and within hours of announcing this bill, we have over 20 co-authors in the Assembly."
They have also launched a petition pushing for marriage equality.
Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa (D), who is bisexual, is sponsoring the legislation in the Assembly. At a press conference with Carpenter Thursday, she recalled how she felt when voters banned same-sex marriage in 2006.
“And I still remember crying myself to sleep that night, and promising myself that I would always continue to advocate for marriage equality for our LGBT Wisconsinites," Zamarripa said, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
In order to get rid of the constitutional ban on marriage equality, a repeal bill would have to pass the legislature in two consecutive sessions and then be approved by voters in a referendum.
On Feb. 3, four same-sex couples, assisted by the American Civil Liberties Union, sued Gov. Scott Walker (R) and other Wisconsin officials on the issue in federal court in an attempt to overturn the ban.
Walker said in an interview recently that he doesn't believe voters are eager to change the state constitution to allow marriage equality.
"I haven't heard significant movement across the state to make an alteration on that one way or the other," Walker said.
He has also said that he believes Wisconsin has a "healthy balance" of rights for lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender individuals, despite the ban on marriage equality.
In an interview Friday, Walker's Democratic opponent, Mary Burke, told The Huffington Post she disagreed.
"I very much feel that people should have the freedom to choose who they would like to marry. ... In Wisconsin, just as across the country, there has been significant movement on people's feelings on this issue," Burke said.
An October poll by Maquette University Law School found that 53 percent of Wisconsinites back same-sex marriage.
Correction: This piece originally misidentified the gender of Zamarripa.