A new law in Wisconsin that could keep gays and lesbians from being able to vote may not go far enough to ensure the right to vote remains a right, a group of groups and gay rights advocates are pushing for.
A bill that passed the state legislature this week would effectively strip the state of its ability to prosecute hate crimes for people who engage in anti-LGBT acts.
Critics say the legislation is not strong enough to prevent violence and harassment of gays and other minorities in the state, and it would further marginalize those who have sought to come out as gay or lesbian.
The proposed legislation is being promoted by groups including the Human Rights Campaign, which has been pushing for changes in state law.
In an op-ed for The Washington Post, the Human Right Campaign said the proposed law is “an attack on the fundamental principle that no American should be forced to hide their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
The bill would make it a felony to be a “transphobe,” a person who is “disorderly” in their conduct toward someone based on their sexual identity or gender.
Under the new law, a person convicted of such a hate crime would be considered a “hate crime” and face a prison term of up to five years.
The Human Rights Act of 2015, which was signed into law in July, allows for the state to charge those who violate the law with a misdemeanor, which would be punishable by up to two years in prison.
It also makes it a crime for a person to harass, threaten or assault someone who is transgender or a person with a mental disability.
But in its proposal, the proposed bill does not include any protections for transgender people.
The proposal also would not apply to a person “who has engaged in or been convicted of conduct that has caused or contributed to the injury or damage to the dignity of another,” or to an individual who is in a state of “mental health or physical disability.”
In an emailed statement to Vice News, the state Department of Administration and Budget said it is working with advocates and the Legislature to develop a new bill to address these concerns.
“The proposed bill is not comprehensive enough to protect all people from discrimination,” the department said.
“Instead, it only addresses certain offenses that affect transgender people more, such as harassment, bullying and physical violence.
This legislation would do nothing to protect the rights of other people.”
A representative for the Human Relations Commission, which advocates for equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the workplace, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“We are hopeful that this bill will be more narrowly tailored to address the needs of the most vulnerable populations and that it will protect transgender people from further discrimination,” said the Human Resources Commission’s Executive Director, John Koval, in a statement.
“There are too many LGBT people who have been hurt and harassed and the state needs to do more to protect them.”
The Human Relations Act was passed by the Wisconsin Assembly in 2015.
The bill has since passed the State Senate and the House, but it will have to be signed by Gov.
Scott Walker before it can take effect.
The Republican governor, who has publicly stated his support for gay marriage, has previously said he supports the proposed new law and that he is confident the bill will survive a legal challenge.
But there is growing concern in the gay rights community that the bill may not have a broad enough impact on the way voters are able to cast their ballots.
In a statement, Equality Wisconsin, the national group that advocates for LGBT equality, said the bill would “send the message that the law is not enough to guarantee voters will be treated fairly.”
The new law would also “further marginalize people who are in the LGBT community,” the group said.
The Wisconsin Republican Party did not respond to requests for comment about the new bill.
“It is a step in the right direction,” said Kevin McCarty, senior vice president at the National Center for Transgender Equality.
“But it’s not going to stop hate crime against the LGBT communities.
The legislature should have passed it in 2015.”