Great Trip North Part II - Superior

map of wisconsinI love traveling Wisconsin, especially the northwest. Both times I’ve driven to Superior, I feel like I’m headed into frontier territory. You can feel that it's obviously less populated than southern Wisconsin. There are McDonald’s and other chain businesses, but there seem to be fewer than in other parts of the state. Up here, I’ve seen a number of interesting independent restaurants and motels—many have smartly-designed, creative advertising and buildings. Seems like America from a few decades ago, before every highway exit featured identical gas stations and restaurants.

On Sunday, we met Action Wisconsin board members, Angie Nichols and Beth Olson, before the training. Bob Jansen, the owner of The Main Club, one of Superior’s two gay bars, and John Ludwig, a father of a lesbian daughter, joined us. Bob opened the bar in 1983 and has long been a vocal and brave voice for gay visibility in Duluth-Superior. The Main Club might be the oldest gay bar in the state. We visited it later that night, and it’s clear that Bob has made it not just a place for people to drink--but also a community. Everyone seems to be welcomed into the bar, and there are bulletin boards with community event listings and clippings from area newspaper coverage of LGBT issues.

Angie, Bob, and John at Mocha Bay

Angie and Beth got married last year in Canada. They speak eloquently about what it felt like to travel just a few hours north and have a marriage that is not only legally, but also socially, acknowledged. A Canadian woman congratulated them, but then asked why they traveled to Canada to get married. The woman was incredulous when Beth explained that the United States prohibits equal marriage for gay people. (This was before the shining exception of Massachusetts.) Beth says she experienced true freedom to have such basic respect for her family. It’s amazing to realize the same thing must be happening in Massachusetts where people are beginning to assume that equality is the everyday order of things.

John, Bob, Angie, and Beth helped us identify community leaders and organizations that might speak out publicly against the amendment, and we shared more details about Action Wisconsin and the campaign. Interestingly, they told us that the Superior police department has liaisons to the LGBT community and is generally solid on LGBT issues. The Superior mayor is no friend of basic equality for LGBT people. But area lawmakers, state Senator Bob Jauch, and Rep. Frank Boyle, are solidly opposed to the constitutional ban on civil unions and marriage.

The training at University of Wisconsin Superior attracted a diverse, committed group of non-gay and gay people, including a Mennonite minister, a married couple who drove over from Bayfield, and leaders from Duluth and Superior. Monica Meyer, the public policy director for OutFront Minnesota, was also there to learn more about our training. Minnesota could also face a constitutional amendment in 2006, and we’ve been sharing ideas and plans about our campaigns.

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A Fair Wisconsin Votes No
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