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Wisconsin Legislature passes amendment to limit diversity efforts


MADISON, Wisconsin — A Republican-backed constitutional amendment that seeks to limit diversity, equity and inclusion efforts in Wisconsin won approval in the state House on Thursday.

The measure is the latest effort to target DEI efforts nationwide, but it is still a long way from becoming law in Wisconsin. The legislation must pass the Senate this year and then the full Legislature next session before going to a statewide vote to be added to the Wisconsin Constitution.

The Senate is expected to be in session for only a few more days before concluding its work for the year in March.

Wisconsin Republicans are proposing more constitutional amendments because they don’t need approval from Democratic Gov. Tony Evers. He has vetoed more bills than any other governor in state history and has acted as a blockade to the agenda of Republicans, who have a strong majority in the Legislature.

The proposal passed Thursday prohibits state and local governments, including the Universities of Wisconsin and local school districts, from discriminating against or giving preferential treatment to any person based on race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin. It requires hiring decisions to be based on “merit, fairness, and equity,” a term conservatives use in opposition to DEI.

Conservatives who support the constitutional amendment say the programs are discriminatory and promote left-wing ideology. Democratic supporters say the programs are needed to ensure institutions and government meet the needs of increasingly diverse populations.

Republican Rep. David Murphy, the measure’s sponsor, said during debate that the amendment “restores merit, fairness, and equity in hiring.”

But Democratic Rep. Sylvia Ortiz-Velez derided the proposal as “divisive and contrived” because it tries to solve problems she says don’t exist.

The House passed the bill 62-35 on a straight party-line vote.

The bill’s Republican authors said the Wisconsin measure was modeled on a state constitutional amendment passed in Michigan in 2006 and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The amendment was designed not to conflict with federal law, saying it does not prohibit any action that must be taken to maintain compliance with any federal program. There are currently numerous federal laws that prohibit discrimination based on sex, race, color, national origin, or religion.

The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, a conservative law firm, is the only registered supporter of the amendment in Wisconsin. The only registered opponents are the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin and the National Association of Social Workers.

Consideration of the change comes after the Universities of Wisconsin agreed to limit DEI positions systemwide under a narrowly approved deal reached with Republicans. Republican House Speaker Robin Vos called the agreement a first step toward eliminating what she called “cancerous DEI practices” and called for a review of diversity initiatives across state government.


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