aroundtheregion

Wisconsin
Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin are offering legislation that would undo much of the progress local school districts have made on making schools more inclusive for transgender and gender non-conforming students. The Wisconsin State Journal has the details:

Rep. Jesse Kremer, R-Kewaskum, and Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, are proposing to require school boards to designate bathrooms and locker rooms as being for one gender exclusively, and to require the state Department of Justice to defend school districts in lawsuits alleging the policy is discriminatory.
“This bill reinforces the societal norm in our schools that students born biologically male must not be allowed to enter facilities designated for biological females and vice versa,” Kremer wrote in a memo sent Tuesday to lawmakers seeking co-sponsorship.
The bill defines gender as being “the physical condition of being male or female, as determined by an individual’s chromosomes and identified at birth by that individual’s anatomy,” according to an analysis of the bill from the Legislative Reference Bureau….

Sheri Swokowski, a transgender woman who is a board member of LGBT advocacy group FAIR Wisconsin and lives in DeForest, said she understands anxiety and apprehension that arises in situations where transgender students are using communal spaces with others.

“And that’s really due to a lack of education and awareness of what transgender means,” she said. “When you have a transgender female going into and using female restrooms and locker rooms — there may be male anatomy, but frankly they are female.”

Swokowski, 65, said transgender students often receive diagnoses confirming their gender identity is different than the one assigned at birth, “and sometimes it’s difficult for someone to understand that.”

Republican Gov. Scott Walker is backing the proposal, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports:

Gov. Scott Walker Thursday came out in favor of clearer rules on which bathrooms can be used by transgender students in public schools.

The Republican governor was reacting to a proposal by two GOP lawmakers that would require public schools to designate their restrooms and locker rooms as “male” or “female.” The bill would effectively bar transgender students from using the facilities in the gender with which they identify.

The measure would allow transgender students to use single-stall restrooms if their parents or guardians seek the accommodation in writing.

“I think it’s important to have some clarity about that and I know school districts around the state have just begun to deal with that,” Walker said of the issue. “I understand at least one school district has looked at a separate bathroom and I think that makes some sense but I think with respect to all the other students there’s got to be some clarity.”

Multiple civil rights groups are criticizing the proposed legislation.

Milwaukee Pride:

We are disgusted by the news that Wisconsin legislators plan to introduce a bill that would police transgender students’ access to school facilities, including locker rooms and restrooms.
Legislative efforts like this one seek to alienate potential allies, limit inclusive accommodations, and excuse discrimination and violence against the transgender community.
These legislators have gone out of their way to capitalize on an irrational fear that all transgender men and women are predators and present a real danger to children.

ACLU of Wisconsin:

The ACLU of Wisconsin strongly opposes a bill being circulated in the state legislature that would require local schools to forbid transgender students from using restrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity. By singling out transgender youth for discriminatory treatment, this bill would subject vulnerable students to further isolation and risk of harm. Transgender young people already face staggeringly high rates of harassment, assault and suicide.

The reality is that transgender students pose no risk to other students in our schools. Schools around the country – including schools right here in Wisconsin – have adopted policies that allow transgender students access to restrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity with no known incidents of harassment or inappropriate behavior.

Meanwhile, Wisconsin high schools continue to make strides for transgender and gender nonconforming students, including Madison West High School, the Associated Press reports:

A Madison high school is switching to a gender-neutral homecoming court in an effort to make transgender and gender nonconforming students feel more comfortable.
Madison West High School Principal Beth Thompson said the homecoming court announced on Oct. 16 will consist of the top 20 vote-getters in the senior class. In the past, 10 male and 10 female students were named to the school’s homecoming court.
The two top vote-getters won’t be called “king” or “queen” unless they choose those titles.
Students approached Thompson last spring with a petition calling for the change to “create a safer and more inclusive environment for students.”
Madison West is the largest of the district’s four high schools with about 2,065 students.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin is asking the U.S. Attorney General to look into a blackmail plot from the 1950s that resulted in the death of a Wisconsin U.S. Senator, the Daily Mail reports:

A US senator has urged the Attorney General to look into a blackmail plot that allegedly prompted a politician’s suicide 60 years ago.
Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin, the first openly Lesbian member of Congress, has written a letter to Lorretta Lynch, asking for a probe into the death of her predecessor, Democrat Lester Hunt.
In 1954, he walked into his office on Capitol Hill with a rifle and shot himself after he was threatened by other politicians when his son was arrested for soliciting gay sex.

North Dakota
Police say an alleged hate crime at a UND fraternity was not a hate crime after all, the Grand Forks Herald reports:

Police have found an 18-year-old man who claimed he was beaten outside a UND fraternity because of his sexual orientation was not the victim of assault, but instead say he started the fight.

Haakon Gisvold, who is not a student at UND and said he is gay, reported to police he had been at a party in late August at the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity, 515 Harvard St., when multiple men stripped him of his clothing and physically assaulted him while calling him homophobic slurs, which police ultimately determined did not happen, according to a news release issued by the Grand Forks County State’s Attorney’s Office Thursday afternoon.

Detectives confronted Gisvold about the conclusions they had drawn from their investigation, according to the police summary, and noted Gisvold maintained he had no reason to lie, would not make up such allegations and just wanted the whole ordeal to go away.

Police sent information to the state’s attorney’s office alleging Gisvold had made false reports to law enforcement, though county prosecutors decided not to press charges against Gisvold, the release says.

A Fargo Lutheran pastor is quitting because of marriage equality, WDAY reports:

The senior pastor of Messiah Evangelical Lutheran Church in Fargo, a congregation that includes a weekly television audience here on WDAY during the “Hour of Worship,” is resigning.

Simply put, Pastor Steve Berntson says he’s resigning his position, one he’s held since 2009, because a few of his core beliefs, do not match those held by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Berntson shared his decision with his congregation this past Sunday.

It followed an August newsletter.

In it, Berntson took a position against gay marriage.

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