The LGBT community and reproductive health advocates have so much to be proud of this year, and yet, we face many challenges ahead.
Gov. Jim Doyle signed four laws enhancing reproductive health care in our state, making 2009-10 the most successful legislative session for reproductive health advocates in the history of Wisconsin.
The entire LGBT community shares in these successes. The Healthy Youth Act ensures LGBT students will not face discrimination in sex-ed curricula. Expedited Partner Therapy allows physicians to treat a patient’s partner for an STD he or she has contracted. The Contraceptive Equity and Prescription Protection laws help ensure fairness in the provision of health care. Insurance plans now will have to include prescription birth control in prescription drug plans and all pharmacies must have pharmacists on staff who will fill birth control prescriptions. We have a long way to go to ensure equity in insurance coverage for our communities, but these are important first steps that Democratic lawmakers and Doyle took in the right direction.
We share your success, too. Domestic partnership protections are a milestone for all Wisconsinites who want to ensure that caring, committed couples are able to take care of each other.
We share your values. Planned Parenthood supports the right to reproductive and sexual self-determination for all people. We support policies that guarantee the essential right to privacy for all individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation.
We also share many challenges. Both Republican candidates for governor promise to reverse the historic gains we’ve made.
When he was in the state Legislature, Scott Walker led the charge to allow pharmacists to refuse to dispense birth control and sponsored bills to take away all state funding for Planned Parenthood and other family planning providers. He was also a vocal proponent of writing discrimination into the Wisconsin Constitution, issuing a press release in support of the ban on marriage equality and civil unions, stating, “Many years ago, I concluded that we must change the Wisconsin State Constitution to say that marriage is to be between one man and one woman.”
During his five years in Congress, Mark Neumann voted repeatedly against family planning access both internationally and domestically. He voted over a dozen times to limit access to abortion for women serving in the military, federal employees and women in prison – even if they used private funds to pay for abortion care. When he was in Congress, Neumann voted for the Defense of Marriage Act. He also told The New York Times, “If I were elected God for a day, homosexuality wouldn’t be permitted.”
Clearly, strengthening the relationship between reproductive health advocates and LGBT advocates becomes all the more urgent as November approaches.
In Tom Barrett, Wisconsinites would have a pro-fairness governor who is solidly pro-reproductive health. Barrett has a strong, 10-year Congressional record supporting women’s and reproductive health policies. Under his leadership, the Milwaukee Health Department was recently awarded the Wisconsin Public Health Association’s Excellence in Public Health Award for reducing teen pregnancy and STD rates, among other factors.
Barrett also has a proven track record of supporting the LGBT community. During his years in Congress, he opposed the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that hinders the ability of gays and lesbians to defend our country. Barrett was also a vocal opponent of the 2006 constitutional amendment banning marriage equality and civil unions. As mayor of Milwaukee, he proactively supports the city of Milwaukee’s domestic partner registry and he has ensured that the LGBT community is represented in city government.
Our movements are interdependent. We rise and fall together. We both work on matters that involve the most intimate choices central to a person’s dignity and autonomy.
This November, everything we stand for is on the line. Together, we must preserve our gains and march forward.