For the LGBTQ community, the month of June commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Inn riots and celebrates the progress that has been made and the progress they hope to see.
To celebrate, the pride flag flew above the City County, Madison Municipal and the Wisconsin State Capitol buildings. County Executive Joe Parisi “we have a lot to celebrate, but we have to remain vigilant” in the LGBTQ community’s fight for equality.
New York City’s Stonewall Inn, a gay club, was raided by police officers in 1969 because same-sex relations were illegal at the time. Six days of protest followed, where members of the LGBTQ community clashed with law enforcement. It sparked a movement to fight for LGBTQ rights.
In 1982, Wisconsin was the first state to pass a gay rights law, according to GSAFE Wisconsin. Madison was the first city in Wisconsin to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in 1975, according to the Freedom for all Americans website.
Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway offered some words at the pride flag raising at the Madison Municipal Building.
“It is so important to send a visible signal that Madison is a welcoming community and that the city is an inclusive employer,” Rhodes-Conway said.
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According to the Freedom for All Americans site, Madison employers are legally barred from discriminating on prospective employees based on gender or sexual orientation.
Additionally, laws require Madison employers to hire and advertise to a diverse group, as well as have at least one person of color and one woman to review supplemental questions (if they appear on an application), according to the Equitable Hiring Tool created by the Racial Equity and Social Justice Initiative.
“The Bureau of Equity and Inclusion reaches out to people from different communities to build relationships through community-based organizations [and personal visits],” Parisi said.
There are consequences for employers who do not meet these protections. Employees and applicants can report to the Wisconsin Equal Rights Division, Madison Civil Rights Department, Bureau of Equity and Inclusion or Employee Relations at the county and state levels.
Dane County holds the number three rating among the top 10 places to live in Wisconsin, according to Niche, which is an online tool that community members use to rate their communities and schools. Parisi said this is because Dane County supports quality of life regardless of individual backgrounds.
Wisconsin can help in the national LGBTQ movement by leading by example, Parisi said. Parisi and State Representative Mark Spreitzer, D-Beloit, support flying the pride flag.
“[It] advances a good cause that everyone matters, everyone should be treated the same under the law and discrimination will not be tolerated,” Parisi said.
Spreitzer said flying the pride flag tells the LGBTQ community their government sees them and they are welcome and supported here.
Legislators are introducing bills that further LGBTQ protections as part of the Equality Agenda. Assembly Bill 111 bans conversion therapy for minors, Assembly Joint Resolution 47 recognizes June as LGBT Pride Month, AJR 67 recognizes June 28, 2019 as the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising and AB 312 establishes a Transgender Equality Task Force.
It would be required to study the legal and societal barriers to equality for transgender, intersex, non-binary and gender non-conforming individuals and provide recommendations to the legislature on how to ensure equality, according to the bill. All bill texts can be found on the Wisconsin State Legislature website.
Spreitzer proposed legislation that would update Wisconsin law to add gender identity and gender expression to current non-discrimination laws but said work still needs to be done to allow people to change their gender on birth certificates and driver’s licenses.
Spreitzer added he can’t do something everyone will agree with, but he is working for what he believes is in the best interest of the state and his district. He is happy to listen to those who have differing opinions.
“I hope that as public opinion continues to evolve, and while we may disagree about particular legislative solutions, I would hope we can all agree that LGBTQ people should be welcome,” Spreitzer said.
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Recognizing June as Pride Month and commemorating the Stonewall Inn riots promotes learning about LGBTQ history and highlights the unfortunate fact that they are still being discriminated against, Parisi said.
Not everyone thinks the pride flag represents equality. A petition to take down the flag has gained 10,000 signatures, according to Wisconsin Public Radio. The socially conservative Wisconsin Family Council President Julaine Appling said the pride flag is divisive because it does not represent all Wisconsinites, according to WPR.
University of Wisconsin junior Rosie Rodriguez said she believes the Wisconsin flag doesn’t represent all Wisconsinites because not everyone who lives in Wisconsin was born in the state or the United States.
“Any flag is going to be divisive and I don’t think the pride flag is worse,” said Rodriguez, who is openly bisexual.
Ten thousand is a significant number, but is still a small number of Wisconsinites, Spreitzer said. He added that it’s hard to tell whether the majority or a vocal minority is speaking out.
Rodriguez and her boyfriend, UW junior Miles Waech, said flying the pride flag is more of a performative act.
“I’m glad that it’s up there, but it means [lawmakers] gave in to public pressure,” Rodriguez said.
Lawmakers should be finding ways to prevent and amend hate crimes and solve the systematic issues in schools and healthcare, Waech said. Waech, who is a transgender male, said he would like to see better healthcare plans for transgender people and wants those in the medical field to be educated about transgender people.
Waech added that the type of people who oppose the pride flag flying will always be there and they directly affect him, but he’s not going to fight against them because it’s not worth his energy or time.
Rodriguez said we shouldn’t forget the oppression LGBTQ people have endured in the past and should keep fighting for LGBTQ rights.
“Our whole lives it’s been like this, so I have nothing else to say to them,” Rodriguez said.