Standing in solidarity with our allies

Rep. Mark Pocan

As summer fast approaches and Pride celebrations pop up around the country, now is a good time to look back at the year that was and what lies ahead. This is also a good time to reflect on who stands with us, and who’s against us.

One year ago, Wisconsin began to rebuild from a hateful constitutional amendment that excluded same-sex couples from marriage and civil unions in Wisconsin. We made great strides last legislative session at the Capitol to ensure LGBT couples in committed relationships were afforded 43 of the more than 200 legal protections opposite-sex couples receive under state law. Most notably, those 43 protections include hospital visitation and survivor protections.

I am proud to have fought to make Wisconsin the first state in the nation to enact domestic partnerships despite having an existing constitutional amendment banning both marriage equality and civil unions. Wisconsin was also the first state in the Midwest to legislatively enact protections for same-sex couples.

But almost immediately, Wisconsin Family Action filed a lawsuit claiming the legal protections violated the constitutional amendment. Shortly after that, Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen announced that he would not defend our domestic partner protections. And recently, Gov. Scott Walker said he wouldn’t stand with the LGBT community either. He said his administration would not continue the legal defense of our domestic partner protections.

While we know who isn’t standing with us, it’s important to recognize we aren’t fighting this battle alone. Fair Wisconsin, the organization that boldly fought the marriage ban, hired lawyers to defend our domestic partner protections.

Walker’s first few months in office, while terrible for Wisconsin, have brought progressives of all walks of life together. Walker’s attack on workers’ rights remind us that it was through collective bargaining that many unions were able to secure domestic partner benefits for employees long before the state government acted. The bonds of solidarity forged during the collective bargaining fight fanned the flames of the current effort to recall six GOP state senators.

The regime of FitzWalkerstan could be coming to an end as those recalls get underway across the state. In Milwaukee County, Rep. Sandy Pasch will take on incumbent Sen. Alberta Darling. As you read this, I hope you will remember Pasch stood side-by-side with us in our fight for domestic partner benefits, and she took a strong stand on the floor of the Assembly this session against the Republicans’ right-wing conservative priorities and Walker’s self-serving agenda.

I hope the LGBT community stands with Pasch and others across the state who seek to help tip the balance of the Senate and restore some sense of sanity to Wisconsin.

And then on to the big fight. We must work to recall Walker, as he has shown us whom he stands with. And it’s not with us.

In the name of solidarity, I ask you to remember those brave individuals and organizations who have stood with us: the workers and unions that fought the hateful constitutional amendment; the elected officials who stood with us and voted with us when we needed them most; members of the broader progressive movement who are our allies.

Enjoy Pride and get ready to fight for our friends this summer and in the months ahead. Forward!

Out state Rep. Mark Pocan is a Democrat who serves Madison in the Wisconsin Assembly.