This weekend, Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) talked to Bloomberg TV’s Al Hunt about the mix of protections and limitations on LGBT rights his state offers, telling the host that the Wisconsin has struck a “healthy balance.” He lauded the state’s nondiscrimination protections for LGBT workers, suggesting the U.S. House should consider the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), because there have only been “limited problems” with it in Wisconsin. He simultaneously, however, defended its ban on same-sex marriage:
WALKER: In Wisconsin, we’ve had anti-discriminatory laws that are very similar to [ENDA] for more than 30 years and they work quite effectively. We’re also a state that has a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as one man and one woman…Watch it (via Raw Story):
HUNT: So, similar to the Wisconsin bill, the House bill should be something that…
WALKER: Yeah, I mean, we’ve not had problems. We’ve had no problems — I should say, limited problems — with that. At the same time, we still have a constitutional amendment that defines marriage. There’s a healthy balance there.
In 1982, Wisconsin was the first state to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing, education, credit, and all public accommodations — a law signed by Republican Gov. Lee S. Dreyfus. Upon signing it, Dreyfus remarked, “It is a fundamental tenet of the Republican Party that government ought not intrude in the private lives of individuals where no state purpose is served, and there is nothing more private or intimate than who you live with and who you love.” Despite these protections, one of Walker’s appointees to the state’s Labor and Industry Review Commission ruled that an employee who’d repeatedly been called “fag,” “maricon,” and “my little bitch” in the workplace was not protected from such harassment under law.
In 2004, the state legislature followed Republican precedent across the country to advance a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, which eventually passed in 2006. That amendment banned recognition of any “identical or substantially similar” legal status for same-sex couples, but Wisconsin maintains a domestic partner registry and provides some benefits to same-sex partners of state employees. Walker suggested in March that conservatives have lost the fight against marriage equality.