Today, HRC, Fair Wisconsin, the statewide group working to advance equality for LGBTQ Wisconsinites, the Wisconsin LGBT Chamber of Commerce and Freedom for All Americans, a bipartisan campaign to secure full nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people nationwide, announced their opposition to two pieces of legislation moving through the Wisconsin State Legislature. Companion bills AB748 and SB634 would prevent local governments from enacting their own policies for local communities and strip away existing citywide employment non-discrimination protections. AB748 will be heard in the Assembly Committee on Local Government on Wednesday, while SB634 advanced out of committee last week.
“This legislation is a dangerous and blatant attack on local control.” said Wendy Strout, HRC Wisconsin State Manager. “It would bar local governments from passing and enforcing hard-won protections for workers, including the LGBTQ community. Constituents’ right to demand change and accountability from their leaders is one of the hallmarks of an effective democratic process, and local elected officials remain best equipped to respond to the needs of those they serve. We urge the legislature to honor cities’ right to self determination and reject any bill that would take away this ability.”
Said Megin McDonell, Executive Director of Fair Wisconsin:“Not only would Wisconsin be putting itself out of step with the rest of the country, it would be prohibiting its local communities from being able to compete for the best jobs and pass inclusive ordinances that will protect members of the LGBTQ community from discrimination. Passing this legislation would make Wisconsin one of the more hostile states in the nation to LGBTQ people."
“These bills are not only bad for the people of Wisconsin, but they are bad for business,” said Jason Rae, President & CEO of the Wisconsin LGBT Chamber of Commerce. “Preventing local municipalities from protecting LGBTQ individuals from discrimination is wrong — plain and simple. Wisconsin is competing for talent in a global economy and we stand to lose out on truly qualified individuals if these bills pass. People want to live and work in a place that is fully welcoming and inclusive, and these bills are the opposite. They will have a severe negative impact on the business community in Wisconsin.”
“Preemption is a power grab, and irresponsibly broad legislation like this puts growing economies at risk,” said Masen Davis, CEO of Freedom for All Americans. “When state lawmakers prevent communities from passing economic policies that work for them, including ordinances that protect LGBTQ people from discrimination, they hinder economic growth and development. Not only would this bill put Wisconsin out of step with the rest of the country, it would prohibit its cities from being able to compete for the best jobs and retain the best talent. We urge the Wisconsin legislature to avoid turning the clock back on Wisconsin and to reject this dangerous legislation.”
Similar in part to language in North Carolina’s discriminatory HB2, AB748 and SB634 would render local communities powerless in regulating critical local issues including unfair labor practices, minimum wage increases, anti-LGBTQ employment discrimination legislation and more. The dangerous proposals would also void parts of existing LGBTQ non-discrimination protections in cities like Madison and Milwaukee, and strip cities’ ability to implement their own employment protections -- such as minimum wage increases -- in the future. Bills restricting local governments from protecting their own citizens are notoriously bad for business --- North Carolina’s HB2 cost the state more than $329 billion in revenue.
The attack on fairness and equality in Wisconsin is part of an onslaught of anti-LGBTQ bills being pushed in 2018 by anti-equality activists around the country. HRC is currently tracking more than 85 anti-LGBTQ legislative proposals in 22 states. For more information, and a preview of the 2018 pro-equality and anti-LGBTQ legislation that HRC expects in state legislatures, click here.