On a warm, sunny Monday in June, Gov. Tony Evers delivered the first-ever official LGBTQ Pride Month proclamation at the Wisconsin State Capitol. He was joined by members of the LGBT Caucus and prominent state LGBTQ advocates who all helped make sure the occasion was properly marked.
With the rainbow flag fluttering proudly in the breeze overhead, Evers read the statement to an enthusiastic crowd and local media.
“There’s still much to be done to make sure LGBTQ people and families are treated equitably and with respect,” he added. “The flag represents that Wisconsin is, unequivocally, a place that is and should be welcoming to all.”
State Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa opened the event with a heartfelt statement about her own journey to Pride. The first bisexual person of color elected to the state legislature, she noted that being her full authentic self in public wasn’t something she initially ever thought would be possible for her.
“I am not afraid to be out and proud anymore,” Zamarripa said.
Milwaukee-based LGBTQ health activist Elle Halo gave a moving speech that centered the need for continued action–politically and personally–to stop the epidemic of violence faced particularly by transgender women of color.
“We’ve lost five women in June alone,” she noted. “Every one of them was someone’s rock, someone’s star…We must uplift trans women. Read their stories. Put a face with the name.”
“Pride isn’t just about happiness and celebrating,” said Sergio Dominguez, also speaking at the event. “It’s about sadness, grief, and anger – and standing up to say enough is enough. We need allies from all walks of life to take a stand.”
State Rep. Mark Spreitzer related his own personal history of coming out and being amazed by the progress that’s been made in such a short time frame.
“If you had told me 14 years ago that I would be standing here, next to the governor, under the Pride flag flying at the Capitol, I would have never believed you,” he said.
Spreitzer is the lead sponsor on a slate of bills called the Equality Agenda, now introduced in the Legislature and with bi-partisan support for the first time ever. It includes six bills that will ban conversion therapy, prohibit discrimination on the basis of a person’s gender identity or expression, eliminate the gay and trans “panic” defense, create a transgender equality task force, and update Wisconsin’s statutes and constitution to recognize marriage equality.
“We’ve made incredible progress for LGBTQ people in just the five years I’ve been in the Assembly,” said Spreitzer. “But for all the progress we’ve made, and for every lucky person like me, there’s a kid out there who doesn’t have that support. There are adults who grew up in a less accepting time or place, or who still lack access to the support they need.”