The Daily Agenda for Thursday, February 25

Jim Burroway

February 25th, 2016

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Escape (Milwaukee, WI), March 26, 1982, page 34.

From Escape (Milwaukee, WI), March 26, 1982, page 34. (Source.)

1101 West was Appleton, Wisconsin’s most popular gay and lesbian bar. Of course, it was sometimes Appleton’s only gay and lesbian bar. The owners, Andy Lehman and Ed Smith, lived above the bar and sometimes took in out-of-town visitors. It began operation in 1981 and lasted until 1987, when competition finally took its toll.

Photo of the signing of AB70 into law by Governor Lee Dreyfus, February 1982. L-R: Leon Rouse, Governor Dreyfus, David Clarenbach (via the Milwaukee LGBT History Project)

Wisconsin Becomes First State to Ban Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation: 1982. When Rep. David Clarenbach (D-Madison) introduced his gay rights bill into the Wisconsin Assembly, he did so from a glass closet. “It was a different era. … Even in the liberal stronghold of Madison, it would have done more than raise eyebrows. It would’ve hampered a person’s electability. Yet I think it’s safe to say that every member of the Legislature and every member of the Capitol press corps knew I was gay…. The general consensus was not to intrude into one’s personal life.”

Clarenbach worked with Milwaukee gay rights activist Leon Rouse and others to introduce yet another anti-discrimination bill covering sexual orientation, as part of an ongoing effort that had begun as far back as 1971, when Milwaukee legislator and civil rights activist Lloyd Barbee introduced the first bill to provide anti-discrimination protections for gay people. Rouse had put together a carefully crafted coalition beginning in 1977, spurred on by Anita Bryant’s anti-gay crusade in Florida that had spread across the nation. He organized the Committee for Fundamental Judeo-Christian Human Rights, comprised of clergy from a number of Christian and Jewish denominations. Committee members lobbied their superiors and traveled to Madison to testify in favor of the. Rouse even managed to convince Milwaukee’s Roman Catholic Archbishop Rembert Weakland to support the bill in a letter to legislators and in a column in Milwaukee’s weekly Catholic newspaper.

Meanwhile, Clarenback brought together a different coalition of labor unions and liberal activists, framing the question in the simplest of terms: is discrimination tolerable? He even managed to pull in Republican supporters, so that when the bill finally passed the Assembly, it did so with bipartisan support.

With the bill’s passage in the state house, the big question now was whether Republican Gov. Lee Dreyfuss would sign it. After intense lobbying by both sides, Dreyfuss finally decided to give the bill his stamp of approval, explaining: “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.”

After deciding not to re-election the state Assembly in 1992, Clarenbach was succeeded by Tammy Baldwin, who ran as the first openly gay candidate for the state house in Wisconsin history. Clarenbach then went on to become the executive director of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund from 1996 to 1997.

If you know of something that belongs on the agenda, please send it here. Don’t forget to include the basics: who, what, when, where, and URL (if available).

And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?

Mark F.

February 25th, 2016

I voted for Lee Dreyfus in 1978, when I was 18.

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