Sunday, February 25, 2018

Today In 1982: Wisconsin First State to Ban Discrimination Based On Sexual Orientation

Wisconsin Gov. Lee Dreyfus signs a law on Feb. 25, 1982, that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in housing, employment and public accommodations. With Dreyfus are activist Leon Rouse of Milwaukee (left) and former state Rep. David Clarenbach of Madison, who wrote the bill. (The Capital Times)

The State of Wisconsin has had many first for LGBT rights. Today in 1982, Wisconsin became the first state to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing, education, credit and all public accommodations. When Republican Gov. Lee S. Dreyfus signed the law, he said that "It is a fundamental tenet of the Republican Party that government ought not intrude in the private lives of individuals where no state purpose is served, and there is nothing more private or intimate than who you live with and who you love."

Wisconsin is also the first state to have an out LGBT U.S. Congresswoman and Senator, Democrat Tammy Baldwin.

Wisconsin was part Michigan territory in 1836, when it adopted a prohibition on sodomy that applied to both heterosexual and homosexual sexual activities, excluding cunnilingus. The criminal prohibition was retained when Wisconsin became a state in 1848. The definition was expanded to include fellatio in 1897 as well as the new crime of "taking improper liberties" with a minor. In the 1950s, following a series of high-profile sex crimes, Wisconsin criminalized cunnilingus and increased the penalties for "sexual perversion." In 1959 the State barred persons convicted of "sexual perversion" from using an automobile or any vehicle requiring a license.

In 1966, the Wisconsin Young Democrats approved a resolution urging "the abolition of all legal restriction on sexual relations between consenting adults which do not violate the rights of others," one of the first major political organizations in the United States to do so. Republican Gov. Warren P. Knowles referred to supporters of the resolution as "homocrats" and some Democrats of various ages distanced themselves from the language.

In the 1970s, court challenges to the sodomy law on privacy grounds failed, but the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that the law should not apply to private and consensual acts between a husband and wife. In 1976, the state repealed its ban on newspapers' covering sodomy trials. In 1977, the state reclassified consensual sodomy as a misdemeanor.

In 1983, Wisconsin legalized private, non-commercial acts of sodomy between consenting adults. In order to obtain sufficient votes among legislators, the bill stated that Wisconsin did not approve of "any sexual conduct outside of the institution of marriage."

On June 6, 2014, Judge Barbara Brandriff Crabb of the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin ruling in Wolf v. Walker struck down the state's constitutional and legislative ban on same-sex marriage as a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. Her ruling was stayed until October 6, 2014, when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal in the case, allowing her ruling to take effect and ending Wisconsin's denial of marriage rights to same-sex couples.

Wisconsin maintains a registry of domestic partnerships that provide same-sex couples with limited rights, specifically 43 of the more than 200 spousal rights afforded different-sex couples. The registry, Chapter 770, was established in 2009 by a provision included in the state's biennial budget bill and signed into law by Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle. Wisconsin was the first state in the Midwest to enact a form of recognition for same-sex unions. Out of the several states that have bans on same-sex marriage and civil unions, Wisconsin was the first and only one to enact limited domestic partnerships.

Wisconsin has provided benefits to same-sex partners of state employees since 2009. In some jurisdictions, domestic partnership benefits for state employees have been expanded beyond those rights provided to other employees under the state's domestic partnership registry. Wisconsin is ending the domestic partnership registry on April 1, 2018.

No comments: