The Associated Students of Madison Diversity Committee sponsored “Into the future together,” a Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender campus forum Saturday.
The event gave campus groups and LGBT students a chance to hear LGBT issues on campus and in Wisconsin, according to coordinators. The forum sought to strengthen ties between campus organizations and their area support groups.
Nadolyn Hankins, ASM’s new LGBT liaison, organized the project with help from other campus groups. Hankins, in her opening address Saturday morning, commended the leaders of the LGBT community.
“These are the people who stand on the front lines,” she said. “These are the people who will stand up and say ‘this is who I am.’”
Kevin Otten, the LGBT liaison for University Housing, expressed excitement about the forum’s possible outcome.
“So many people have such a deep commitment to these issues that I know good things will come of this,” Otten said.
Paul Barrows, UW vice chancellor for student affairs, spoke on behalf of the administration. He said being comfortable on the UW campus is at the forefront of the administration’s concerns and that sexual identity is a valuable aspect of “campus climate.”
“Everyone has the right to live and learn in an environment in which they can thrive,” he said. “Issues of campus climate are a very high priority for Provost Peter Spear and Chancellor Wiley.”
A panel at the forum included Barrows, Otten, representatives from the Dean of Students office, ASM, the Faculty Senate Committee, the LGBT campus center, UHS, SPEAKUP, the Ten Percent Society, the Campus Women’s Center and the UW Police Department. Each member of the panel gave a short presentation on what his/her organization was currently doing for the area LGBT community.
State Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, was a keynote speaker on the legal issues affecting the LGBT community in Wisconsin. Pocan is one of two openly gay state legislators, and said legislation is currently pending regarding legal domestic partnership, or gay marriage, in the state of Wisconsin. Equal health-insurance benefits for state employees with domestic partners is also being debated.
He urged those in attendance to contact their hometown representatives and encourage them to support these bills in hopes of getting them passed in the five remaining weeks of this session.
Hankins said the main goal of the forum was not only to provide information for the LGBT community, but also to allow the community to provide information to groups. Attendees said UW has a definite need for a place for those who are questioning their sexuality to get more information without the fear of being labeled. Currently, the LGBT campus center is the only place to get information.
Hankins said this forum was the first of its kind, and she hopes to hold events more frequently in the future. “A support system such as this is so important not only for those who have come out, but also for those who are still searching for the courage,” she said.