'How far we have come': Lawmakers celebrate the LGBTQ community at the state Capitol

Published: Jun. 17, 2019 at 6:53 PM CDT
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On Wednesday afternoon, Wisconsin lawmakers at the State Capitol celebrated Pride Month for the first time.

"As I stand here today, with the pride flag flying over our state's Capitol, I'm reminded of how far we've come," said State Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa (D-Milwaukee).

Lawmakers said they are proud of the progress the LGBTQ community has made, and they are glad to have the support of Governor Tony Evers and his administration.

"If you had told me then that 14 years later, I would be standing at the Wisconsin state capitol as an openly gay elected representative, speaking about June as LGBTQ Pride Month, with the governor standing next to me, I would never have believed you," said State Rep. Mark Spreitzer (D-Beloit).

Steve Starkey, the executive director of Outreach LGBT Community Center said having that support means a lot.

"It’s very important for our community to see that the governor of Wisconsin supports our issues and supports our rights, and this is a very visual demonstration of the support of his administration for our community," Starkey said.

Starkey said he knows there will be backlash, but he hopes that with Evers in office, more strides can be made. A top priority for him is adding legal protections for transgender people.

"We recognize that there’s a Republican-controlled legislature, and that they have historically been opposed to transgender rights, and so it’s kind of an uphill battle, but it’s good to know that we have a governor that is in place that is fighting for our rights," Starkey said.

Lawmakers and advocates spent Wednesday celebrating the progress they have made, but both groups acknowledge there is still more work to be done.

"Our community has been second- or third-class citizens forever. There’s really no reason for us to not have the same protections that other people enjoy. There’s no reason to have a whole class of people being discriminated against legally, and so we need to move forward and protect everybody and have equal rights for everyone," Starkey said.

Earlier this month, LGBTQ lawmakers introduced the Equality Agenda to address challenges and discrimination that the LGBTQ community continues to face.

NBC15 reached out to State Rep. Scott Allen (R-Waukesha), who voiced his opposition to raising the pride flag above the Capitol, to comment on Wednesday's celebration, but did not hear back.