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Friday, January 30, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 19.0° F  Mostly Cloudy
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Emily's Post: Where will Rebecca Kleefisch stand on LGBT issues?

One of many valid Kleefisch concerns

As the dust has settled after the elections, it's been more possible to really think about the long-term consequences of Wisconsin's new Republican dominated government. There are many, many issues of concern for those of us with a more progressive bent -- cuts to Badger Care, killing high-speed rail, rolling back the rights of workers to unionize and of women to choose, and ID laws that could disenfranchise voters all threaten.

Recently, a reader pointed out a concern that may seem like a small thing in comparison but that is, I think, illustrative of the larger problems our state now faces in light of the incoming Walker/Kleefisch administration.

He wondered, "Given the current national focus on the effects of bullying on LGBT youth… and given incoming Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch's religious ideology, extreme right political stances and previous comments regarding gay issues, what is the status of the Lieutenant Governor's Conference on LGBT Youth that was started by Barbara Lawton and the Gay Straight Alliance?"

The inaugural conference was held just this past March at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and focused on creating a place for LGBT adolescents and teens to find support, networking, and a place to strategize supported by various adults. The official stamp of the Lieutenant Governor's office certainly went a long way toward lending credibility to the event, too. It helps others at the schools see that the issues faced by LGBT youth are not isolated concerns, but things that affect the whole state.

I hope I'm wrong, but the realist in me suspects the Kleefisch will have little to no interest in continuing the conference under the auspices of her newfound office. She's free to contradict me, of course, but you'll forgive my lack of optimism regarding a woman who compared gay marriage to a desire to marry one's furniture and pets.

Kleefisch has also expressed her opposition to the state's domestic partnership registry (as has Walker). And while Lieutenant Governor isn't a title that comes with much, if any, ability to directly influence policy and legislation, it is a position with influence. Simply being in a prominent place in state government lends special weight to a person's words and actions. Having Kleefisch spouting negative, misinformed lines about LGBT people only contributes to the already harsh environment that too many LGBT youth -- and adults -- are forced to endure.

I don't even want to think about what would happen if Walker had to step down as governor, leaving Kleefisch to take over. I can't think of another candidate for major political office in recent memory who made their religion such a central part of their campaign... and won. Kleefisch benefited from riding Walker's coattails into office, of course, and by maintaining the same sort of blank slate status that helped Ron Johnson beat out Russ Feingold.

We know next to nothing about Kleefisch as a politician or stateswoman. All we do know is that she loves her some Jesus (no problem there), and seems to have little grasp of the separation of church and state (problem).

She may end up being nothing but a mouthpiece, but voices carry.

It's dispiriting, to say the least, to realize that just one year after a milestone achievement like the conference on LGBT youth, we're likely to see it cancelled. That sort of backward movement may well be what we overwhelmingly see in the coming term -- unless the good, caring people of this state (the majority, I'd say) stand up and work together to remain true to our motto: Forward.

You're not helping

Let's hope Wisconsin's legislators don't take a cue from their national brethren and decide to uniformly block every piece of legislation from passing until some pet project goes through first.

Two million people about to lose their unemployment benefits? A military harmed by a dangerous policy toward its LGBT members that few even support anymore? Improvements to food safety laws? Screw 'em all.

Hey Senate Republicans: You're not helping!

Seriously, I can hardly think of a more dickish political move for them to make right now. It (just barely) tops Walker's ongoing whiney attempts at stopping all government work during the state's lame duck session.

This is who we're dealing with now, though. We appear to have gone from ineffective but mostly well-meaning, to effective but selfish and ignorant in our choice of leadership. Excuse me if I'm not exactly thrilled.

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