Metro Weekly

Wisconsin governor signs executive order protecting LGBTQ state employees

State lawmakers plan to push for comprehensive nondiscrimination bill in the upcoming legislative session

Tony Evers – Photo: Facebook.

On his first day in office, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) signed an executive order prohibiting discrimination against LGBTQ state employees, making him the fourth governor to do so in the last three weeks.

Evers’ order also calls for the state to put standard terms in contracts saying that recipients of taxpayer money can only hire on the basis or merit and can’t discriminate against people based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Evers’ action comes on the same day that Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) issued a nearly identical executive order.

In December, just before leaving office, former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) issued a similar order, but with an exemption for religious organizations. That same month, former Ohio Gov. John Kasich also issued a nondiscrimination order just weeks before leaving office.

“The momentum for LGBTQ nondiscrimination is undeniable,” Masen Davis, the CEO of Freedom for All Americans, said in a statement. “In just the last few weeks, lawmakers from both parties have affirmed the importance of treating LGBTQ people fairly and equally. Governor Evers’ executive order is an important step toward ensuring that hardworking LGBTQ people in Wisconsin are judged solely on their job performance on not based on who they are or who they love.”

“Discrimination in any form is wrong, and through his actions today — signing his first executive order since taking office — Governor Evers continues to demonstrate that he will fight day in and day out to uphold the Wisconsin values of fairness, justice and equality,” HRC Wisconsin State Director Wendy Strout said in a statement. 

Noting that HRC had endorsed Evers in his race against former Gov. Scott Walker, Strout said the organization was “proud” of its efforts to turn out pro-equality voters to help elect the governor.

“We look forward to working with the Evers Administration and Fair Wisconsin to pass legislation that will finally safeguard protections for transgender Wisconsinites, who are still denied basic and explicit protections from discrimination in the workplace, housing and public spaces,” she said.

Wisconsin is currently one of 31 states nationwide lacking explicit laws prohibiting anti-LGBTQ discrimination, although State Reps. Mark Spreitzer and JoCasta Zamarripa and Sen. Tim Carpenter have introduced House and Senate versions of a bill to prohibit discrimination in employment, housing, education, and public accommodations. It remains to be seen whether those bills will be able to advance given Republican control over both chambers.

“Discrimination can and does impact so many LGBTQ people every day,” Freedom for All Americans’ Davis said in a statement. “We’re not wasting any time moving the ball forward in 2019 — we believe that these executive orders from governors of both parties demonstrate the urgent need to pass enduring and comprehensive protections through state legislatures. As the new House of Representatives prioritizes a federal nondiscrimination bill, our victories in the states are incredibly important to ensuring lawmakers recognize the deep support that exists for treating all LGBTQ Americans with dignity and respect.”

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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