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Proud of Wisconsin’s commitment to fairness

In Wisconsin, we have a long history of rolling up our sleeves, digging in and doing the hard work that has to be done to keep our values intact and our communities thriving.

 Our state has been a pioneer in social reform for over a century. In 1911, Wisconsin was the first state to pass a worker’s compensation law. In 1918, we were the first state to ratify the 19th amendment, granting women the right to vote. In 1932, we were the first state to enact an unemployment compensation law. In 1982, we were the first state to put non-discrimination laws into place protecting sexual orientation.

 But when I look back at recent years, I do not see us leading the nation as we once did. And I don’t see us living up to the Wisconsin values I’ve known and lived by all my life. Instead, I see leadership that has put politics ahead of problem solving and prioritizes special interests over the best interests of the rest of us. It’s not leadership when you divide people and pit them against each other.

I’m a fourth generation Wisconsinite. My great grandparents were farmers, my grandfather was a mailman, my mother was the first in her family to go to college, and nearly 40 years ago, my father started Trek Bicycle, a Wisconsin company that I helped to make a global success.

The Wisconsin that I love is built on the values of hard work, fairness, commitment to community, and believing that everyone should have the opportunities and support to be self-reliant and successful — values that my family instilled in me from an early age. It’s a Wisconsin that celebrates diversity, embraces equality and works together to be the best it can be for all people.

Those are values we can all take pride in this month. But we also have work to do to ensure that everyone is able to enjoy those values.

Every Wisconsinite should have the freedom to marry the person he or she loves and wants to make a lifelong commitment to — period.

Finally recognizing this freedom will bring economic security to loving couples and strengthen our communities. Wisconsin is at its best when our communities are at their best, and our communities are at their best when working families thrive.

 We have a lot of work to do as a state, including creating more good-paying jobs and making sure workers have the skills necessary to fill those jobs. But we also have to make sure that everyone gets a fair shot — regardless of their gender, skin color, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, or gender identity. That’s the American dream. And we need more people who feel like it can happen right here in Wisconsin.

We need leadership that respects all of the people in this state and that values fairness. That’s the kind of governor I’ll be: A governor who’s working for equality and opportunity every day — a governor who’s working for you.

Mary Burke is a former executive at Trek Bicycle and led the Wisconsin Department of Commerce from 2005 to 2007.  She is the likely Democratic candidate for governor.

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