One week before she was elected lieutenant governor, Rebecca Kleefisch made a rare and brief public appearance at UW – Waukesha, only to be greeted by students protesting her anti-gay statements.
A demonstration organized by the campus group Pride Alliance brought about 30 sign-carrying protesters together in front of the building where Kleefisch was scheduled to address a student Republican group Oct. 26. The students spoke with a Fox6 reporter as the lieutenant gubernatorial candidate was whisked secretly into the building through a back door.
Kyle Callen said the protest was called to object to the way Kleefisch is “perpetuating the idea that it’s not OK to be gay.”
“The last thing we need right now is a lieutenant governor who takes an openly hateful stance toward a group of people,” student Dee Landers said.
The protesters regrouped in a room where Kleefisch spoke for about 15 minutes. They stood silently against a back wall, their numbers nearly equal to those of Kleefisch’s supporters, Pride Alliance co-president Jessica Bemi said.
After winning the Republican primary in September, Kleefisch refused to debate Democratic opponent Tom Nelson or to appear at any public press events. Her Republican Party handlers kept Kleefisch so far out of sight that AP photographers were unable to get a picture of her during the campaign. Editorial boards throughout the state condemned Kleefisch’s strategy of invisibility.
But Kleefisch, a former TV news anchor and outspoken evangelical Christian, appeared several times on right-wing radio and television programs during her primary campaign, telling one radio host that allowing people of the same gender to marry is identical to allowing people to marry clocks, tables or dogs. She said the Bible should be the authority on the issue.
Several UW – Waukesha protesters carried signs referencing Kleefisch’s remarks on same-sex marriage, including one held by a young man that read, “What if it’s a female table?”
During her talk on campus, Kleefisch said her controversial statement was taken out of context. “I was talking about a slippery slope and what we would have to do in legislation to define and redefine what marriage is,” Kleefisch told students. “If I sounded insensitive, that’s wrong.”
In addition to protesting Kleefisch’s appearance on campus, Pride Alliance is planning to hold public vigils for every gay youth who commits suicide, Bemi said. She said Pride Alliance is the second largest student group on the UW – Waukesha campus, behind the Campus Crusade for Christ.