Last week, Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., and Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., two openly gay legislators, were elected to represent Wisconsin at the federal level. Their success is not only a milestone for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning community but is also a promising indicator Wisconsin’s attitude toward LGBTQ individuals is rooted in common sense and 21st-century ways of thinking.
Both candidates focused on issues in the campaign rather than their sexual orientations, which further solidifies the significance of their wins. Their sexual orientations were never the centerpiece of their campaigns. Rather, they portrayed themselves as legislators fighting for important issues that affected Wisconsin: For Baldwin, this was health care; for Pocan, this was restoring political civility.
We do not think sexual orientation should be taken out of the political conversation, nor hidden when a candidate runs for office. But it is refreshing the state is at a point where other issues are more pressing than if the candidate’s partner is a man or a woman.
A reliably liberal constituency elected Pocan, who took Baldwin’s old seat as she began her career in the U.S. Senate. Though Baldwin was portrayed as a left-wing radical, she out-performed former U.S Senator Russ Feingold, D-WIs., in some counties, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Still, Wisconsin support for Baldwin does not necessarily equal outright support for the LGBTQ movement. It means, hopefully, some voters valued her political platform and achievements apart from of her sexual orientation.
That is not a bad place to be as a state, but it is also not the best one. Wisconsin still has a long way to go – gay marriage is not legal, and the laws on civil unions vary across the state. Now that Baldwin and Pocan are in Washington, D.C., the scopes of their duties have shifted from state issues to larger national ones, and more leaders will have to emerge to represent the LGBTQ voice in Wisconsin legislation.
The members of this board do not want to bury Baldwin and Pocan’s accomplishments, but their success should be the prologue to future initiatives for the LGBTQ community, not the epilogue for the battles already fought.