Just hours after taking office, Wisconsin’s new governor signed an executive order protecting LGBTQ state employees from discrimination.
After defeating Republican Scott Walker in a closely-watched race, Tony Evers was inaugurated as the 46th governor of Wisconsin on Monday. During his swearing-in ceremony, the Democrat urged government leaders to “transcend divisiveness” and “governing by retribution,” a swipe at his predecessor’s much-publicized “war on labor.”
Evers’ pledge to turn the page certainly got off to a good start. The 67-year-old signed an order that prevents government workers from being fired or denied employment based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
The order calls for “the state to put standard terms in contracts saying that the recipient can only hire on the basis of merit,” the Associated Press reports.
Wisconsin is one of 30 states lacking inclusive statewide laws banning anti-LGBTQ discrimination in the workplace. Although the state was the first in the nation to pass legislation prohibiting bias in housing and employment on the basis of sexual orientation, it has yet to update that bill to include gender identity.
Republicans control both chambers of Wisconsin’s bicameral legislature, making the passage of trans-inclusive provisions a difficult task.
Despite the conservative roadblock, the governor reportedly intends to push the issue further. According to the Associated Press, his administration intends to “create a model anti-discrimination policy” for other states, cities, and municipalities to implement.
Five cities and Milwaukee County have already passed local nondiscrimination ordinances protecting their trans citizens from discrimination.
Advocacy groups lauded Evers for taking steps to protect LGBTQ people on his very first day in office. Fair Wisconsin Director Megin McDonnell said in a statement the order “modernizes our state’s internal policies to make sure Wisconsin government employees are judged solely on their job performance, not who they are or who they love.”
“Discrimination in any form is wrong,” said Human Rights Campaign Wisconsin State Director Wendy Strout in a statement, adding that Evers “continues to demonstrate that he will fight day in and day out [for] fairness, justice and equality.”
Freedom for All Americans noted that Evers is actually the fourth governor to sign an antidiscrimination pledge in three weeks—two of whom were Republicans. These included Outgoing Governors John Kasich of Ohio and Rick Snyder of Michigan, as well as Michigan’s new Democrat governor, Gretchen Whitmer.
“The momentum for LGBTQ nondiscrimination is undeniable,” its CEO, Masen Davis, concluded.
“Discrimination can and does impact so many LGBTQ people every day,” he continued. “We’re not wasting any time moving the ball forward in 2019—we believe that these executive orders from governors of both parties demonstrate the urgent need to pass enduring and comprehensive protections through state legislatures.”
This issue could soon be headed for the federal legislature, as well.
Incoming Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi pledged Democrats would push for the Equality Act if the party retook the House of Representatives in the 2018 midterms. Following the election, Democrats now hold a 36-seat advantage.
If passed, the Equality Act would prohibit anti-LGBTQ bias in all walks of life—including federal funding, education, credit, public accommodations, and jury selection.
It’s unlikely, however, to survive the Senate, where Republicans retain the majority.