Thursday, January 25, 2007
Turner, "The Gay Rights State," on Wisconsin Gay Rights History
Posted by Mary L. Dudziak
William B. Turner, Emory, has a new paper: 'The Gay Rights State': Wisconsin's Pioneering Legislation to Prohibit Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation. Here's the abstract: This article describes the enactment of Wisconsin's statute prohibiting sexual-orientation discrimination, the nation's first such statute. In addition to providing details of the statute itself and the process of its enactment, the article focuses on the controversy within the Wisconsin legislature on the possibility that the statute would require affirmative action for lesbians and gay men. Wisconsin statutes already contained robust affirmative action requirements for women and racial/ethnic minorities. The lead sponsor of the bill wrote in language expressly abjuring affirmative action based on sexual orientation in order to get the law passed. The article explores how the Wisconsin statute is an indication of the difficulty of making the analogy from civil rights protections based on race and sex to civil rights protections based on sexual orientation. It notes the important ways in which the Wisconsin statute is similar to, and different from, subsequent statutes that have the same purpose. It also describes the issues that arose with the implementation of the Wisconsin statute, which were relatively minor.