Now that Republicans control the entire state government, one would naturally expect a different policy direction in Wisconsin. But looking at the extreme views of the conservatives now in charge should give the LGBT community and the state in general some concern about how far to the right that new direction might swing.
Many of us already know about the extreme right-wing positions of legislators such as Leah Vukmir, Glenn Grothman and Terry Moulton. They have earned some of the worst anti-equality records in the Legislature. Less well known is how extreme many of the freshmen lawmakers are on social issues.
The progressive group One Wisconsin Now has launched meetthemajority.com, a website that highlights the extreme views of many new state legislators. The Democratic Party of Wisconsin also recently announced an effort called One Term Watch, which is aimed at holding Republican freshmen legislators accountable.
There is a wealth of right-wing freshmen legislators, typified by a couple of examples. For one, consider new state Rep. Kathy Bernier, R-Chippewa Falls. Asked in an interview with Wisconsin Eye to give her top priorities, the first thing she mentioned was getting rid of the domestic partner registry.
In a telling profile of Rep. Andre Jacque, R-Green Bay, he is listed as having been a volunteer for the 2000 presidential campaign of the notoriously anti-gay Alan Keyes, who rejected his own daughter when she came out as a lesbian.
Wisconsin Family Action, an organization that exists solely to fight LGBT equality and a woman’s right to choose, endorsed both of these freshmen, along with nearly every other incoming Republican freshman lawmaker. WFA sponsored the constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in 2006. The group also fought bullying legislation in 2009 and is now pursuing a lawsuit to rescind the state domestic partner registry established last year.
Aside from LGBT issues, many of the new Republican state legislators hold extreme views on other social policies. Incoming state Sen. Pam Galloway, R-Wausau, declared in 2009 that the federal government’s Medicare program was unconstitutional. New state Rep. Roger Rivard, R-Rice Lake, subscribes to Glen Beck-style conspiracy theories and has cautioned that our country is “on the path to a godless society.” On immigration policy, he says, “Just being born here should not be a ticket to citizenship.”
As this new legislative session begins, we will find out if this group of Republicans is truly focused on the economy and jobs, as promised during the campaign, or if they will simply serve as soldiers in an unnecessarily hostile culture war. Whatever road they choose, they will be establishing legislative records for which the public must hold them accountable.