Wis. Senators Baldwin, Johnson discuss same-sex marriage debate

MADISON (WITI) -- The positions of Wisconsin's two U.S. senators on the issue of same-sex marriage equality reflect the divide on this issue in the country. Democrat Tammy Baldwin is a vocal supporter of same-sex marriage, while Republican Ron Johnson supports traditional marriage.

Baldwin is planning to attend oral arguments when the High Court takes up the constitutionality of the "Defense of Marriage Act" on Wednesday, March 27th.

In November, Baldwin became the first openly gay United States senator. Her election was a clear sign of changing sentiments in society, and in the United States Senate, where now, even some Republicans have endorsed gay marriage.

"What's at stake is the full citizenship of a certain group of American citizens," Baldwin said.

For Baldwin, the arguments at the Supreme Court are not simply political -- they are personal.

"As I head to Washington to hear the oral arguments before the Supreme Court, I know there's going to be two sides to the case, and I believe that the Defense of Marriage Act -- which is the case that will be argued (Wednesday) --  does enshrine discrimination in our nation's statutes and that's wrong," Baldwin said.

Wisconsin's Republican U.S. Senator Ron Johnson believes in traditional marriage -- between one man and one woman. He says it's not for the court to make sweeping changes. He says that is the responsibility of society itself.

"I really believe this should be decided by voters in the States is the proper course," Johnson said.

Johnson acknowledges a shift in society and in the Senate.

"I think what you're seeing is a societal shift.  Young people in terms of their attitude on gay marriage and older folks. From my standpoint, it's really a state's rights issue," Johnson said.

Baldwin says it is a civil rights issue that can't wait for society to catch up.

"It suggest somehow that this group of citizens is less than.  America has been a story about full equality, full opportunity for all of its citizens.  This is a part of that story and it is deeply moving for me to have a seat at the table at this point in history," Baldwin said.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard arguments in the California Proposition 8 case.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court takes up the federal "Defense of Marriage Act" -- something that Congress could change without the court. Both of Wisconsin's senators say there's a long way to go before there's enough votes to repeal it in the House of Representatives.