MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin Democratic Gov. Tony Evers said Wednesday at a ceremony kicking off Pride Month that if he loses reelection in November, Republicans will take the “breathtaking” step to ban books, particularly those related to the LGBTQ community.
Evers made his comments after a ceremony outside the state Capitol where a progress pride flag was raised symbolizing the inclusion of marginalized people within the LGBTQ community. Evers, who vowed to always stand with the LGBTQ community, was the first governor to ever raise a rainbow flag over the Capitol in 2019. He was asked if he feared the tradition would end if a Republican beats him.
Evers said he was concerned about any progress made for the LGBTQ community being rolled back. He referenced efforts by some Republican lawmakers who are looking into books available at school libraries across the state. Wisconsin Examiner reported Tuesday on Republicans who are gathering lists of books covering LGBTQ topics and characters, as well as issues of gender identity or sexuality.
“They are going to be putting themselves in charge of banning books in the state of Wisconsin and you can be damn sure that some of its going to be directly related to LGBTQ community efforts,” Evers said. “Just think about that. This Legislature and Republican governor would be banning books in the state of Wisconsin. It’s breathtaking.”
Republicans running for governor either did not comment or did not directly address Evers' comments about banning books.
Former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch's campaign spokesman Alex Zimmerman said she supports the legalization of same-sex marriage and “she has moved on from this debate.” Kleefisch in 2010 said that same-sex marriage could result in people marrying dogs, tables or clocks. She later apologized.
However, she won't fly the pride flag.
“Rebecca will not use flags over the Capitol as political props," Zimmerman said.
Construction company co-owner Tim Michels did not say in a statement whether he would fly the flag.
“I think people of all sexual orientations would rather not have the government call them non-essential, close businesses, schools and churches and make bad decisions that cause the price of gas to approach $5 a gallon,” Michels said. “Tony Evers is more interested in flags than he is in solving any of the problems of his creation."
Business consultant Kevin Nicholson told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that the only flags he would fly over the Capitol are the U.S. flag, the Wisconsin flag and the flag honoring prisoners of war and those missing in action.
Nicholson spokeswoman Courtney Mullen did not directly answer questions about banning books, saying in a statement only that he supports “full curriculum transparency” and “that parents should have the right to get their kids out of environments where they believe inappropriate material is taught.”
State Rep. Timothy Ramthun did not immediately return messages. The winner of the Aug. 9 primary will advance to face Evers.
Republicans control the state Legislature and are widely expected to maintain, and possibly grow, their majorities after the fall election. If a Republican is governor, anything the Legislature passes could be signed into law.
Evers has vetoed more bills over his three-plus years as governor than any other governor in state history. He emphasizes in his reelection bid that he is the only person preventing Republicans from enacting broad policy changes affecting elections, abortion rights, gun laws and now LGBTQ rights.