LGBTQ Non-Discrimination in the States

Statewide Protections from Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation; No Statewide Protections from Discrimination Based on Gender Identity & Expression
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LGBTQ Non-Discrimination in Wisconsin:

LGBTQ non-discrimination in Wisconsin provides explicit, comprehensive protections for lesbian, gay, and bisexual people in employment, housing, and other areas. These laws do not protect from discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression, and advocates continue pushing to ensure that ALL Wisconsinites—including those who are transgender—are protected from discrimination.

The Latest on LGBTQ Non-Discrimination in Wisconsin:

In February 2016, the Wisconsin legislature adjourned for the year without considering the only anti-LGBT bill introduced during the session, one that would have prohibited transgender children from using public school facilities that match their gender identity.

In March 2016, Janesville, Wisconsin—hometown of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan—passed a nondiscrimination ordinance that ensures explicit protections for transgender people in public spaces and employment.

History of LGBTQ Non-Discrimination in Wisconsin:


  • October 1962-February 1963: The University of Wisconsin conducts so called “gay purges.” Campus Protection and Security and/or the Dean of Men identify lists of those suspected or accused of homosexuality. Many students are forced to leave the school, and eventually, UW President Fred Harvey Harrington ordered an end to the investigations.
  • 1969: The Madison Alliance for Homosexual Equality is founded following the Stonewall riots, becoming the first LGBT organization in the state.
  • 1971: Gay People’s Union (GPU) founded in Milwaukee becomes the main focus for the gay activism for the Southeastern Wisconsin urban area for the next decade. GPU was primarily a social service organization that was also dedicated to educating the larger community about gays and lesbians.
  • December, 1971:  Donna Burkett and Manonia Evans apply for a marriage license at the Milwaukee County Clerks Office. They are denied by Clerk Thomas Zablocki and file an initial lawsuit but soon withdraw it. They are wed on Christmas Day in the rite of the Holy Eastern Orthodox Catholic Church by Father Joe Felderhausen.
  • 1975: Madison becomes the first place in Wisconsin (and one of the earliest in the country) to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation when it amends its Equal Opportunities Ordinance.
  • 1976: James Yeadon is selected by the Madison Common Council to fill the unfinished term of an alderman. He is officially elected to the office in 1977, becoming the first elected openly gay person in the state.
  • 1978: Rev. Wayne Dillabaugh launches efforts to repeal Madison Equal Opportunities Commission ordinance regarding non-discrimination for gays following the infamous Anita Bryant repeal example in Dade County, Florida. In Madison, The United is formed by gays/lesbians/allies to fight the repeal of the sexual orientation equal opportunities provisions. The United goes on to become a social service organization and was the first group to receive public city funds for gay services, a crisis hotline.
  • 1980: The Dane County Board of Supervisors adopts an ordinance prohibiting discrimination against lesbians, gay men and bisexuals.
  •  1982: Wisconsin becomes the first state in the nation to pass nondiscrimination protections for gay, lesbian, and bisexual people.
  • 1985: Governor Tony Earl’s proposed budget includes new provisions for non-discrimination in
    school services on the basis of sexual orientation.
  • 1992: Tammy Baldwin, Madison, is elected to the Wisconsin Assembly as the first out lesbian
    member of that body.
  • 1994: Action Wisconsin, a statewide organization to promote LGBT civil rights, is founded in
    Madison as a result of Tammy Baldwin’s and other activists’ vision. In March 2006, Action Wisconsin, with LGBT Center Advocates of Greater Milwaukee, launches Fair Wisconsin.
  • 1996: Jamie Nabozny accepts a settlement of $900,000 in a federal case the day after a jury found that three school officials violated his rights when they did not protect him from anti-gay harassment. The case marks the first time school officials were held liable for anti-gay violence.
  • 1998: The election of Tammy Baldwin to the U.S. House of Representatives represents the first time an openly gay or lesbian person is out before they are elected to Congress.
  • 2003: Middleton/Cross Plains School District becomes one of the first Wisconsin school districts to add gender identity to its discrimination policy as a direct result of student action.
  • September 4, 2014: The cities of Appleton and Cudahy adopt comprehensive non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people.
  • February 18, 2016: The Wisconsin legislature adjourns without advancing any LGBT bills for the session.
  • March 28, 2016: Janesville, Wisconsin, home of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, passes a comprehensive ordinance protecting transgender residents from discrimination in public places. 
  • January 7, 2019: Newly-elected Governor Tony Evers signs an executive order prohibiting discrimination against state employees on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. The order contains no provision for religious exemptions.

Municipalities that Protect Transgender People from Discrimination:

The following municipalities protect people from discrimination on the basis of their gender identity:

  • Appleton
  • Cudahy
  • Janesville
  • Madison
  • Milwaukee
  • Milwaukee County

Last Updated February 15, 2018

Active Litigation

Kenosha Unified School District v. Whitaker

Case Concerning Restroom Access for Transgender Students

Key Date: January 10, 2018 • Case Settled
Status: Case Settled
Legal Team: Transgender Law Center
Type: Discrimination Targeting Transgender Students

The court’s opinion made the 7th Circuit the highest court ever to decisively find that Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination based on sex, extends to transgender students.

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