By Jennifer Morales Special to Published Jan 20, 2007 at 3:52 PM

I'm a good progressive. I believe in universal healthcare, family-supporting wages, affirmative action policies, investment in public services like education and libraries, all that good stuff. When I've filled out the candidate questionnaires of interest groups like the Sierra Club, Planned Parenthood and the Human Rights League, I've always gotten high marks, so you know where I stand.

Still, I'm a touch too civil libertarian for some of my allies. Take hate crime penalty enhancers, for example. Although crimes against minority groups hit their victims with full weight of decades or centuries of bias, I don't think that the immediate perpetrators of those crimes should pay for the sins of the ages. I also worry about the First Amendment implications of penalty enhancers. If we are truly free to think and say what we want, why should we punish people for the thoughts they had in their heads when they planned their crimes?

I'm not overlooking the hideousness of hate crimes, believe me. A few years ago, my nephew, the son of my Orthodox Jewish-convert sister, almost bled to death after being shot by a white supremacist on an interstate rampage against blacks, Jews and Asian immigrants. And I can read the paper any morning and find evidence that bigoted, angry people are still hurting those they view as different. Just a couple weeks ago, three women were intentionally struck by a car as they were leaving a gay bar on Milwaukee's South Side. The women stated that the driver was shouting anti-gay slurs as he drove into them.

I know we can find ways to say "No" to discrimination without messing with the Constitution. So I wasn't too happy to hear this week that the Madison city council voted to allow elected and appointed officials to amend their oaths of office with a statement that they will uphold the constitution of the State of Wisconsin except for the part about denying same-sex couples the right to marry.

Anyone who's read my blog knows how strongly I opposed the new constitutional ban on civil unions and same-sex marriage. And anybody who's seen me at an MPS school board meeting knows that I love a good symbolic protest as much as the next lefty. But, still, picking and choosing which parts of the constitution we're going to uphold is a dangerous precedent to set.

When I took my seat on the school board, I had to pledge to uphold the state and U.S. Constitutions, too, and I meant it. I'm with the Madison alderpeople in spirit, though; we've got to get the marriage ban out of our founding document. It's our constitution: right its wrongs.

Jennifer Morales Special to

Jennifer Morales is an elected member of the Milwaukee Board of School Directors, the first person of Latino descent to hold that position. She was first elected in 2001 and was unopposed for re-election in 2005. In 2004, she ran for a seat in the Wisconsin state senate, earning 43% of the vote against a 12-year incumbent.

Previously, she served as the editorial assistant at the educational journal Rethinking Schools; as assistant director of two education policy research centers at UW-Milwaukee; and as the development director for 9to5, National Association of Working Women.

She became the first person in her immediate family to graduate from college, earning a B.A. in Modern Languages and Literatures from Beloit College in 1991.

In addition to her work on the school board, she is a freelance editorial consultant and a mother.