High­lights of Wis­con­sin’s proud LGBT his­tory

Wisconsin Gazette - - Opinion - JAMAKAYA Jamakaya is an award-win­ning writer and his­to­rian in Mil­wau­kee.

Pride Month is a good time to note some of the highs and lows of LGBT his­tory in Wis­con­sin.

40 YEARS AGO: The vice squad of the Mil­wau­kee Po­lice Depart­ment, led by Chief Harold Breier, con­ducted vi­o­lent raids on gay clubs in May and July 1978. Dozens of pa­trons were roughed up, ar­rested and charged with sex of­fenses.

Gay men re­sponded with an an­gry street protest and do­na­tions to a de­fense fund over­seen by the Gay Peo­ple’s Union. The cops slapped back with that old standby of po­lice ha­rass­ment, a flurry of park­ing and jay­walk­ing tick­ets. About half the charges in the raids were dis­missed; oth­ers were re­duced to dis­or­derly con­duct.

The MPD’s war on Mil­wau­kee’s gay com­mu­nity extended well past the re­tire­ment of the in­fa­mous Chief Breier. In 1991, while Jef­frey Dah­mer was mur­der­ing gay men, the cops were pre­oc­cu­pied with shut­ting down strip shows at gay bars.

Wis­con­sin les­bians were su­per-ac­tive on the po­lit­i­cal front in 1978. They es­tab­lished the state chap­ter of the Na­tional Les­bian Fem­i­nist Or­ga­ni­za­tion and marched for the Equal Rights Amend­ment. They lob­bied against the cut­off of pub­lic funds for poor women’s abor­tions and were phys­i­cally ejected from the State Assem­bly cham­ber af­ter a rowdy protest.

Les­bians re­habbed a build­ing on Mil­wau­kee’s west side which be­came the first home of the So­journer Truth do­mes­tic vi­o­lence shel­ter. And they ar­gued with each other about al­most ev­ery­thing — even the Fem­i­nist Ar­bi­tra­tion Coun­cil, which was sup­posed to me­di­ate their con­flicts!

30 YEARS AGO: In 1988, gay Dane County Su­per­vi­sor Dick Wag­ner was elected to serve as chair of the board of su­per­vi­sors. Openly gay Madi­son Al­der­man Jim McFarland gar­nered the votes to pass Madi­son’s “Al­ter­na­tive Fam­ily Rights” or­di­nance. The or­di­nance al­lowed two legally un­re­lated in­di­vid­u­als with chil­dren to live to­gether in Madi­son. It also pro­vided fam­ily sick and be­reave­ment leave to same-sex cou­ples em­ployed by the city.

Mil­wau­kee held its first ma­jor Les­bian and Gay Pride cel­e­bra­tion in Septem­ber 1988. Un­der the slo­gan “Right­fully Proud,” the two weeks of ac­tiv­i­ties in­cluded sports, en­ter­tain­ment, ed­u­ca­tion and po­lit­i­cal fo­rums. Its suc­cess led to a pa­rade and rally in Cathe­dral Square the fol­low­ing year.

Also in 1988, Su­san Cook and Bill Me­u­nier re­cruited hun­dreds of LGBT vol­un­teers to work on the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign of Jesse Jack­son. Jack­son did well in the state, but LGBT cam­paign work­ers felt be­trayed when Jack­son did not choose an openly gay Badger to serve as one of his del­e­gates to the Demo­cratic Na­tional Con­ven­tion.

20 YEARS AGO: Af­ter serv­ing for years on the Dane County Board and in the Wis­con­sin Assem­bly, Tammy Bald­win was elected to the U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives on Nov. 3, 1998. Bald­win, rep­re­sent­ing the 2nd Con­gres­sional Dis­trict, was the first woman in Wis­con­sin his­tory to join the state’s Con­gres­sional del­e­ga­tion. She was also the first open les­bian elected to Congress. Bald­win was elected to the U.S. Se­nate in 2012 and faces re-elec­tion this year.

To her ecstatic sup­port­ers gath­ered on elec­tion night in 1998, Bald­win de­clared: “We have proven that in a democ­racy we de­cide what is pos­si­ble. No one can tell us what we can and can­not achieve, what we can and can­not strive for, what we can and can­not dream. This is Amer­ica. This is a democ­racy, and in a democ­racy we de­cide what is pos­si­ble.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.