John M. Becker

Wisconsin Lawmakers Leading the Way on LGBT Rights

Filed By John M. Becker | August 06, 2013 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Gwen Moore, Mark Pocan, Tammy Baldwin, Wisconsin

wi_from_space.jpgHaving been born and raised in Wisconsin, my relationship with the Badger State goes way, way back. It's definitely a love-hate affair, though, due in no small part to the state's homophobic streak (it passed a constitutional marriage discrimination amendment in 2006, less than eight months after my husband and I were married). Although I no longer live there, I follow Wisconsin LGBT news closely and am often quick to criticize elected officials and public figures there who attack the LGBT community.

But on the national level, I'm proud to say that several Wisconsin politicians are leading the charge for LGBT rights and working hard to bring our community closer to full equality.

I'll give them the shout-outs they deserve, after the jump.

  1. Tammy Baldwin: Wisconsin's junior U.S. Senator -- the first out and proud LGBT senator in American history -- is leading a group of Democratic lawmakers pressuring the Obama administration to end the unnecessary and discriminatory ban on blood donations from gay men. She recently sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius stating that the blood ban "continues to perpetuate inaccurate stereotypes against gay and bisexual men and fosters an atmosphere that promotes discrimination." The letter was signed by 84 of Baldwin's Democratic colleagues.
  2. Mark Pocan: Pocan is America's newest out LGBT representative, and although he's been in office for less than seven months, he's already emerged as one of the House's fiercest equality champions. Last month, Pocan and New York Rep. Charlie Rangel introduced the Restore Honor to Service Members Act, which would erase the dishonorable discharges of the nearly 114,000 gay and lesbian veterans who were kicked out of the military on the basis of their sexual orientation. Pocan and Rangel's bipartisan bill has 100 cosponsors.
  3. Gwen Moore: Rep. Moore is a longtime straight ally of the LGBT community. Last week, Moore and Rep. Mark Pocan tackled the pervasive problem of LGBT youth homelessness head-on by introducing the Runaway and Homeless Youth Inclusion Act. This bill would add LGBT-inclusive language to the Runaway Homeless Youth Act, which is up for renewal this year. (The current version omits any reference to LGBT youth.) Rep. Moore's support for this bill is personal in nature. From the press release:

    "I ran away from home when I was an adolescent," said Rep. Moore. "It was the first and last time. Living on the streets is a difficult and dangerous experience - one that no child should have to endure. Unfortunately, homelessness is the reality for hundreds of thousands of youth each year. According to some studies, LGBT youth account for up to 40 percent of all homeless youth. LGBT homelessness is an issue that negatively impacts our children, our families and our communities. Omitting these young people from the RHYA sends a powerful message to this population: that addressing their trauma and fear is not a priority. The LGBT youth homelessness experience cannot be ignored."

Congratulations and thanks to Sen. Baldwin, Rep. Pocan, and Rep. Moore for doing Wisconsin proud and putting the state's motto into action: "Forward!"

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