Do you want a partner or a pretender?

Cory Liebmann

The Wisconsin Gazette ran a story on Oct. 7 profiling a few LGBT supporters of Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker.  The story highlighted Walker’s simultaneous alliance with some of the most rabidly anti-equality forces in the state.

One of the more interesting parts of the story was the strained effort by Walker’s handful of LGBT supporters to explain away him trying to get in bed with both sides. Some suggested Walker was open to them personally and “would not pursue the conservative social positions he’s adopted on the stump.” This does not comport with reality, because Walker’s track record is decidedly against equality.

Just last year Walker vetoed a proposal to simply study the feasibility of providing health insurance benefits to the same-sex partners of gay and lesbian workers. He has promised to eliminate the year-old state domestic partner registry if elected governor.  That registry gives same-sex couples 42 of the 200 basic rights that heterosexual couples receive when they get married. Hospital visitation and inheritance are only two of the rights Walker is prepared to rip away.  

Walker’s running mate Rebecca Kleefisch says she’d govern according to her own narrow reading of the Bible.  Given her extreme views, it’s understandable that Walker is trying to shield her from debates and the media.  Before joining Walker on the ticket, she told a radio audience that same-sex relationships were like having a relationship with an inanimate object or an animal.

Walker is also putting forward a false image on other policies. He claims that he is the best person to fix the state’s fiscal challenges, but a recent report shows that after eight years with Walker as county executive, Milwaukee County is on the verge of bankruptcy.  Walker talks about lower taxes and spending, but his own budgets over the years have proposed a total increase in the tax levy of $39 million, along with a 35-percent increase in government spending.

Walker’s poor management has led to preventable and repeated crisis at the county’s mental health complex, hundreds of millions of dollars in deferred maintenance in Milwaukee County parks, people in need going without assistance, and the literal crumbling of county structures and buildings.  

In total contrast to Walker, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett has been a steadfast partner with the LGBT community.  He fought against the 2006 marriage amendment, he stood against efforts to take away existing domestic partnership benefits, and while serving in Congress he opposed the discriminatory “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Unlike Walker, Barrett has not only been supportive of LGBT families behind-the-scenes, but he has also proven himself publicly through actual policy.   

Barrett also has partnered with other elected officials and business leaders to create jobs and improve communities. Milwaukee’s Menomonee Valley used to be a wasteland, but because of Barrett’s efforts it has become a vibrant incubator for jobs.. The Public Policy Forum recently described Mayor Barrett’s proposed 2011 budget as “responsible” while they described Walker’s as “risky”.  

Whether we are looking at issues of equality or fiscal management, the contrast between Walker and Barrett is clear. On Nov. 2, will we choose a real partner like Barrett or a constant pretender like Walker?