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Tammy Baldwin’s Opponent in U.S. Senate Race Backed By Anti-LGBTQ Hate Groups

Tammy Baldwin’s opponent in the U.S. Senate race is under fire after an anti-LGBTQ hate group helped fundraise on her behalf this week.

Republican candidate Leah Vukmir was the honored guest at a Wednesday morning fundraiser hosted by the Susan B. Anthony List, a lobby group that supports anti-choice politicians for public office. Vukmir, who has called Roe v. Wade “disastrous,” certainly fits that bill. She received an 100 percent rating from Pro-Life Wisconsin.

The Washington, D.C. fundraising breakfast was co-hosted by a litany of conservative groups opposed to LGBTQ rights.

Host committee members included Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council; Ken Blackwell, a senior fellow at FRC; Rebecca Hagelin, vice president of communications at the Heritage Foundation; and Penny Young Nance, the CEO and president of Concerned Women for America.

The most concerning of these organizations is likely to be the most instantly recognizable. Designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the FRC promotes conversion therapy, claims trans people are pedophiles, supports criminalizing homosexulity, and thinks letting LGBTQ people serve openly in the military causes sexual assault.

Perkins, a close advisor to President Trump, is believed to have strongly influenced the White House’s attempt to ban trans people from military service.

The Heritage Foundation claims LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination protections are “unjustified,” referring to them as “gender ideology” that violates the First Amendment rights of citizens. The conservative group opposes gender confirmation surgeries for trans people. It claimed a California bill banning the discredited practice of conversion therapy “censors speech and infringes upon religious freedom.”

Furthermore, its senior fellow, Ryan T. Anderson claims the “sex-change revolution” is unscientific, based solely on ideology, and harms children.

Lastly, the Concerned Women for America believes “homosexual activists” make up hate crime attacks to build support for pro-LGBTQ legislation. They have also claimed same-sex couples are more likely to engage in domestic violence, compared same-sex marriage to sons marrying their mothers, and believe anti-bullying campaigns promote a “pansexual agenda.”

Vukmir benefitted handsomely from these groups’ support. The cost to attend the breakfast was $250 for individual ticket holders and $1,000 for Political Action Committees (PAC). The maximum contribution allowance was $2,700 for individuals and $5,400 for couples.

Attendees were instructed to make checks payable directly to “Leah for Senate.”

This isn’t the first time that Vukmir has been tied to anti-LGBTQ organizations. In February, the 60-year-old was endorsed by the Wisconsin Family Action PAC, a state partner of the FRC. The pro-family organization described Vukmir as “solid on our issues.”

Those issues include marriage equality and conversion therapy. In 2003 and 2004, Vukmir co-authored a pair of proposals banning relationship recognition for same-sex couples. As chair of the Wisconsin’s Senate Health and Human Services Committee, she refused to allow a vote on this year’s Senate Bill 261, which would have banned orientation change efforts on individuals under the age of 18.

Reports indicate that Vukmir has worked closely with anti-LGBTQ groups to determine her stance on these measures. According to the Wisconsin Gazette, she came out against an anti-bullying bill after WFA President Julaine Appling told her to oppose it.

It’s for these reasons that Vukmir has been strongly condemned by LGBTQ groups. The Human Rights Campaign has claimed she has “no place in the U.S. Senate.”

“She has consistently worked to undermine LGBTQ equality, and built a disturbing record that demonstrates a long-standing hostility to some of Wisconsin’s most marginalized and vulnerable communities,” said HRC Wisconsin State Manager Wendy Strout in a statement.

In a phone call with INTO, Democratic National Committee Secretary Jason Rae added that “the people you surround yourself with are a reflection of who you are.”

“The people of Wisconsin deserve someone who will fight for everyone in the state, who welcomes everyone, and who believes in diversity and inclusion,” Rae said. “Those are the values Tammy Baldwin stands for. It’s would be problematic to have a Senator who doesn’t support those efforts.”

As INTO has previously reported, Republicans have amassed an unprecedented $10 million sum seeking to unseat Baldwin — America’s only openly LGBTQ Senator — in favor of someone who would oppose equality in Congress. That’s more money than the total spent against the 25 other Democratic candidates in the Senate combined.

Early polls do not offer a clear answer as to whether the conservative war chest has boosted Vukmir’s chances. In July, a NBC News/Marist poll showed Baldwin trouncing her opponent by a 17 point margin, yet a Marquette Law School poll released last month claimed Vukmir was within two points of the incumbent.


Nico Lang

Nico Lang is a staff writer for INTO, covering news, politics, and global LGBTQ issues.