MADISON — For the first time in state history, a broad coalition of state legislators, business, and civic leaders in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community announced the introduction of legislation that will protect transgender individuals from discrimination in housing, employment and public spaces. The Privacy Protection and Gender Identity Anti-Discrimination Act, co-authored by Rep. Mark Spreitzer, Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa, and Sen. Tim Carpenter, is currently in circulation for co-sponsorship.
“Everyone residing in Wisconsin deserves to be treated fairly and equally under the law. By updating the state’s nondiscrimination laws to provide these important protections to transgender individuals, we are showing the nation and the world that Wisconsin is open to all,” Megin McDonell, executive director of Fair Wisconsin, said.
Col. (Ret.) Sheri Swokowski, vice-chair of Fair Wisconsin Education Fund, continued, “I served my country with honor. I fought for freedom. Now, I just want to be protected in the state I love.” As a retired Colonel, Swokowski is the highest ranking openly transgender veteran in the United States.
In 1982, Wisconsin became the first state in the nation to secure non-discrimination protections on the basis of their sexual orientation. The state also provides nondiscrimination protections to individuals based on age, ancestry, creed, color, disability, national origin, marital status, race, sex, sexual orientation, national origin and more. The Privacy Protection and Gender Identity Anti-Discrimination Act would update state law to extend those same protections to transgender people.
According to supporters, the measure will not only ensure vital protections for transgender individuals, but it will boost the state’s economy. In fact, both Forbes Magazine and CNBC now include protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals as one of their metrics when rating best states to for business.
“Gone are the days when Wisconsin was simply having to compete with other states for business. As our economy becomes more and more globalized, we must do everything we can to attract top jobs and talent,” said Jason Rae, executive director of the Wisconsin LGBT Chamber of Commerce. “Business leaders want to work and invest in places where their employees, families and customers are protected from discrimination — The Privacy Protection and Gender Identity Anti-Discrimination Act will solidify our promise that Wisconsin is an open and welcoming state for all.”
There are currently 18 states and more than 200 municipalities that have fully LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination protections including several Wisconsin cities: Appleton, Cudahy, Janesville, Sun Prairie, Madison, and Milwaukee, as well as Dane County and Milwaukee County. Public officials across the nation have hailed similar transgender-inclusive nondiscrimination laws for making their states and communities safer.
“Transgender people are disproportionately targeted for discrimination and even violence. Updating the state’s nondiscrimination laws will not only protect an already vulnerable population and their loved ones, but it will make all of our community safer,” stated Pennie Meyers, executive director of the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault.