It’s almost the middle of January. And depending on where you live in the United States, the fruits of last November’s elections, which saw for the most part success of progressive-leaning candidates nationwide, are starting to take shape. And while it’s definitely good to know that the Democratic Party caucus in the new Congress has more diversity (including 10 openly gay or bisexual Senators or Representatives), this quick post will highlight a very nice development on the state level. Or to be more precise, at Wisconsin’s state level.
The man you see in the glasses in this photo is Tony Evers, Wisconsin’s 46th governor, who took the oath of office last Monday, January 7, at the State Capitol here in Madison. As you’d expect from such a ceremony, there was a lot of pomp and circumstance: The music. The administration of the oath to Evers. The same to four other constitutional officeholders, including the state’s first African-American lieutenant governor (and second person of color to hold statewide office in Wisconsin), Mandela Barnes. The speeches. And the promise of a hopeful next four years, even if the legislature is still dominated by a not-so-progressive party.
Needless to say, Governor Evers is progressive, and in his first day in office, he signed his first executive order, one that’s nothing but positive for our community. The order he signed requires that state government agencies develop policies that will prohibit discrimination against employees and whomever they serve on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Additionally, the Evers administration will begin development on “a model anti-discrimination policy that will be distributed to all state employees.”
Yes, this is indeed great news. In the previous 8 years, Wisconsin was governed by a man who sought to “divide and conquer,” starting with controversial legislation that hit public sector employees and unions where it hurt (and led to said employees storming the State Capitol in protest). His tenure also fostered an atmosphere of his party having an attitude that they could do anything they want, including actual or perceived “cronyism,” left-leaning opposition inside and outside the State Capitol be dammed.
That’s not entirely the case any more here in Wisconsin. Oh, sure, Governor Evers still has to face a legislature that’s still controlled by the other party. But his first actions show that it’s still necessary to ensure that people in our state are treated with dignity and respect, and that their work is judged on how they do the job, not based on who they love, nor how they identify, and certainly not by how they’re connected in government.
Not only did this move occur here in Wisconsin this month, our neighbors in Michigan have seen the same thing: That state’s own new Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer, signed her own executive directive that prohibits Michigan’s state agencies, service providers, and whoever else works with the state from discriminating against LGBT+ people, as well as strengthening prohibitions against discrimination in state services based on sexual or gender identity.
So, this is definitely great news here in the Midwest. If only every governor had the smarts to make such moves (giving an angry look at you, Florida).