News roundup for the Midwest

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Retiring U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl of Wisconsin. - PHOTO: Provided

MILWAUKEE COUNTY EXEC ANNOUNCES MARRIAGE EQUALITY CHALLENGE

Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele personally issued a challenge grant of $50,000 for Equality Wisconsin to work on marriage equality, the organization announced Dec. 14.

Abele, in a statement from EW, said, “I’m proud to support Equality Wisconsin in their effort to allow gay and lesbian couples to celebrate their love and commitment to each other. I know Wisconsin is ready to embrace the idea of fidelity for everyone and allowing longtime partners to make a lifetime commitment to each other.”

The challenge is for EW to match, dollar for dollar, Abele’s grant.

The organization has until Jan. 31.

“Equality Wisconsin is humbled by the county executive’s generosity,” said Jason Burns, EW’s executive director and a WiG columnist. “We are excited to continue engaging Wisconsinites around the issue of marriage equality. We are excited to start driving these conversations around equal right for all.”

MILWAUKEE GAY ARTS CENTER AWARDED $1,000 GRANT

Northwestern Mutual, through its foundation, announced a $1,000 grant for the Milwaukee Gay Arts Center on behalf of Milwaukee resident James McFarland, a winner in Northwestern Mutual’s Days of Sharing campaign.

The annual program encourages employees to nominate nonprofits they care about to receive grant funds in their name.

McFarland works as an assistant general counsel and assistant secretary in the law department at the Milwaukee-based financial security company.

“This grant will help the Milwaukee Gay Arts Center further its mission of giving openly gay artists the opportunity to present in a gallery space with a stage,” he said. “As treasurer, I see how the center gives people the opportunity to present their work, which would not be possible otherwise.”

More than 770 employees nominated their favorite local nonprofit as part of Days of Sharing this year. The 25 winning grants were chosen at random each day during in mid-November.

PURDUE RANKS SECOND IN CAMPUS HATE CRIMES

Purdue University reported the second-highest number of hate crimes among the country’s colleges last year, according to statistics compiled by the FBI.

The seven alleged hate crimes reported on the West Lafayette campus in 2011 were the most among Indiana colleges, the Journal & Courier reported. So far in 2012, Purdue police have documented 12 hate crimes.

The University of California at Santa Cruz reported nine hate crimes, the most of all colleges in 2011.

The FBI report said five of the incidents reported at Purdue reflected racial bias and two were related to religion. The offenses involved assault, intimidation and vandalized property.

KOHL DELIVERS FAREWELL SPEECH TO SENATE COLLEAGUES

Wisconsin Sen. Herb Kohl has given his final speech from the floor of the U.S. Senate.

The retiring Democrat delivered brief farewell remarks on Dec. 13.

He remembered some of his late colleagues with whom he served in his 24 years as a senator, and he thanked his current colleagues for their service.

Kohl took office in 1989 for his first of four terms. The 77-year-old is stepping down after his current term ends Jan. 2.

He spoke for about three minutes. He acknowledged that he hasn’t always agreed with his colleagues but he said every senator is acting on the genuine belief that their actions are best for their states and the nation.

BALDWIN GETS COMMITTEE ASSIGNMENTS

U.S. Sen.-elect Tammy Baldwin, D, will serve on several high-profile committees in the 113th Congress. She’s assigned to the Senate committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions; the Budget Committee; the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and the Senate Special Committee on Aging.

In a statement, Baldwin said, “These committee assignments provide me the opportunity to make a difference for Wisconsin families and businesses across our state. I am looking forward to working across party lines, bringing people together and working to move our economy forward for the middle class and small businesses.”

Baldwin will be sworn in to the U.S. Senate on Jan. 3.

MAJORITY IN INDIANA OPPOSES ANTI-GAY AMENDMENT

Indiana residents are evenly split on legalizing gay marriage, although a majority of them do not want to amend the state constitution to ban it, according to a new poll.

The survey taken for the Bowen Center for Public Affairs at Ball State University and WISH-TV found that 45 percent of those surveyed supported allowing gay people to wed, while 45 percent opposed the idea. Ten percent had no opinion.

MINNESOTA GROUP TO PUSH FOR MARRIAGE EQUALITY

The leader of the campaign that defeated a gay marriage ban in Minnesota says the group will push to legalize marriage equality in the legislative session starting in January.

Richard Carlbom told The Associated Press that he’d continue to lead Minnesotans United for All Families, transforming it into a lobbying group. The group will lobby Minnesota lawmakers to pass a bill legalizing same-sex marriage in the state next year.

“Minnesotans were asked whether we should limit the freedom to marry in the last campaign, and they resoundingly said no,” Carlbom said. “We believe it’s time to move forward from that.”

The marriage amendment went down with 47 percent of the vote in November, short of the majority needed to cement it in the state constitution.

But same-sex marriage is still prohibited under state law.

With Democrats set to take over the legislature in January and gay marriage supporter Mark Dayton as governor, Minnesotans United has a strong path to adding Minnesota to the growing list of U.S. states that allow same-sex couples to wed.

– WiG and AP reports

www.wisconsingazette.com.