Pride flag raised over Wisconsin Capitol for 5th time

Choking back emotion as he announced the raising of a Pride flag over the east wing of the Wisconsin State Capitol building for the fifth pride month in a row, Gov. Tony Evers, who inaugurated the annual flag-raising in his first term, told LGBTQ Wisconsinites, “You belong here.” 

As June began in Wisconsin, attacks on the LGBTQ community have persisted across the state and country. Earlier this year, the Republican-controlled Legislature reversed a ban on conversion therapy, a discredited form of psychological counseling that seeks to turn gay people heterosexual. Bills to prevent trans children from participating in sports have been introduced in Wisconsin and passed in several other states. On Thursday, Evers said members of the Legislature need to remember they represent everyone in the state. 

“But today, we continue to see harmful anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and legislation right here in Wisconsin, across the United States and unfortunately around the world,” Evers said. “Rhetoric that we know hurts our kids, emboldens hate and violence and threatens the safety, security and dignity of LGBTQ people.”

The Pride Flag flies over the Wisconsin Capitol. (Henry Redman | Wisconsin Examiner)

Evers also noted the rising trend of book banning in Wisconsin and across the country. Over the last few years, books that discuss LGBTQ issues have been singled out by conservatives seeking to keep certain types of books out of classrooms and libraries. 

This legislative session, Sen. Andre Jacque (R-DePere) and Rep. Scott Allen (R-Waukesha) introduced legislation that would make librarians criminally liable if children check out materials that are deemed harmful. 

“Now I say all of this today not to damper the parade, but to explain why raising the Pride flag here at the state Capitol is so important to me as a governor,” he continued. “Raising the Pride flag today sends a message for all those who’ve only ever wanted to belong, who’ve had to find their own family, who’ve never known home. You belong here. You are family here. You are welcome here. To the people who work in the other wings of this building, this is the people’s house. And you, too, serve at the pleasure of the people of the state. And yes, that does mean LGBTQ Wisconsinites.”

Evers’ re-election victory last year guaranteed that the tradition of flying the Pride flag over the capitol would continue for a fifth year. Sen. Mark Spreitzer (D-Beloit), who is openly gay, noted that it also guaranteed that any legislation targeting the LGBTQ community passed by the Republicans in the Legislature would be vetoed. Last session, the Assembly passed a bill that would prohibit trans athletes from participating in sports. The bill did not advance through the Senate after Evers promised to veto it. 

Anti-trans rhetoric is on the rise across Wisconsin. Last year, the bullying of a trans kid in Kiel resulted in a national media uproar stoked by a right-wing legal organization. The controversy led to bomb threats and ultimately caused the cancellation of the Kiel school district’s high school graduation. 

Last month, Wisconsin Watch reported that private schools that accept state money through voucher programs — teaching thousands of students across the state — are allowed to discriminate against gay or transgender students by disciplining or expelling them for their identities. 

Earlier this spring, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said the anti-trans sports legislation would likely be reintroduced. On Thursday, Evers again promised to oppose such a bill.

Gov. Tony Evers speaks before the unveiling of the Pride flag over the Wisconsin state Capitol building. (Henry Redman | Wisconsin Examiner

“I will always stand with LGBTQ Wisconsinites, including our trans and gender non-conforming kids, and will fight to protect them with every tool, every power that I have, every day,” Evers said. “We will keep working to build a Wisconsin that is more welcoming, more inclusive and more just for everybody.” 

At the flag raising event, Spreitzer also underlined legislative Democrats’ commitment to protecting LGBTQ rights. 

“Let us also work together to ensure that full equality is a reality in Wisconsin,” Spreitzer said. “In the coming months, the Wisconsin legislative LGBTQ+ caucus will be introducing legislation to repeal Wisconsin’s unenforceable constitutional ban on same sex marriage, to update state statutes to use gender neutral language to reflect LGBTQ+ marriages and families, to ban conversion therapy and to prohibit discrimination based on a person’s gender identity or gender expression.” 

Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary-designee James Bond, the first openly gay cabinet secretary in state history, said at the event that his story is proof that Wisconsin can be a welcoming place for LGBTQ people to build a life and find a community, but only if it is protected. 

“With each passing day, my son’s faces remind me of the responsibility we each have to be true to ourselves, and by doing so, create the community in which we wish to live,” Bond said. “Despite my earlier fears, I am able to live openly. I did get married, have children, and a successful career and thanks to leaders like Gov. Tony Evers and all the people who made this day possible, we raise this flag as a beacon, a reminder to all, you are welcome here at the Wisconsin State Capitol.”



originally published at https%3A%2F%2Fwisconsinexaminer.com%2F2023%2F06%2F01%2Fpride-flag-raised-over-wisconsin-capitol-for-5th-time%2F by Henry Redman

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