Speaking at the capitol building yesterday, advocates and members of the state legislature’s LGBTQ caucus summarized their “Equality Agenda”. It’s a package of bills opposing discrimination against the LGBTQ community.
One bill would ban discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression, while another would ban conversion therapy. Yet another bill would ban the gay and trans panic defense, a legal tactic used to excuse perpetrators who commit violent assaults on gay and trans individuals.
The package would also recognize dates significant to the LGBTQ community, including the anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, the Transgender Day of Visibility, and the Transgender Day of Remembrance.
State Representative Mark Spreitzer, a Democrat from Beloit, is a member of the LGBTQ caucus. He says Wisconsin has a long way to go, specifically in terms of transgender rights.
“In 1982, Wisconsin became the first state to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation, but we have unfortunately not gone back in the decades since to add protections for transgender people by banning discrimination based on gender identity and gender expression,” says Spreitzer.
One year ago this week, the US Supreme Court ruled that gay and trans individuals are afforded protection from discrimination under the Civil Rights Act. Spreitzer says the same should be made explicit in Wisconsin state law.
Governor Evers has shown support for transgender individuals and students. But, it’s unlikely the package of bills ever makes it to his desk.
Brian Juchems is the Co-Executive Director of GSAFE, an organization that advocates for LGBTQ+ youth in Wisconsin schools.
“Those bills from the 80s enjoyed bipartisan support. I’d like to say that I’m hopeful for the bills proposed today would extend statewide protections for our trans and non-binary friends, neighbors and colleagues and children might enjoy that same support. But reality tells me that this just might be wishful thinking. Some members of our legislature are dedicated to villainizing trans youth, playing games with their mental health, and physical well-being. They are presenting our children as boogeymen in order to scare and shore up their political base,” says Juchems.
Just after yesterday’s news conference, the state assembly passed bills that would ban trans student athletes from competing on teams that match their gender identity.
Amira Pierotti is a non-binary high school student and member of the Let Kids Play Wisconsin Coalition, which helped organize a rally outside the Capitol opposing the GOP bills. Speaking at yesterday’s LGBTQ caucus news conference, Pierotti condemned the language used in the hearings over the transgender sports bills.
“I am non-binary, neither a girl nor a boy. But listening to the comments made by representatives, senators, and individuals giving testimony during the public hearing of the four anti-trans sports bills currently in the Wisconsin legislature, one would think I was, quote: ‘delusional’, quote: ‘indoctrinated by a trans cult’, ‘inhuman’, ‘an assaulter’, and ‘undeserving of basic respect’,” says Pierotti.
The sports bills now head to the state senate. If passed there, they’d head to Governor Evers, who is likely to veto them.
Meanwhile, most of the bills in the “Equality Agenda” have been introduced, or are slated to be introduced this week.
PHOTO: Chali Pittman