Human Rights League for Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, and Transgendered Records, 1991-1999


The Human Rights League (HRL) strove "to advance the political interests of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and transgendered in the metropolitan Milwaukee area by influencing local, state, and national politics, legislation, and public policy." Although bisexuals were always included in HRL's mission statement from 1993, they were not represented in the name of the organization until 1998. At this time, transgender individuals were included in the mission statement and organization name for the first time.

HRL surveyed electoral candidates for their positions on LGBT issues; recommended and endorsed candidates for local, state, and national elections; held annual receptions at which members of the LGBT community met with public officials; and distributed political information. In 1997, HRL formed a political action committee to raise and distribute funds in support of pro-LGBT candidates. HRL worked with the Milwaukee Police Department to train police recruits on LGBT issues. It also held two annual award programs--the Cream City Brick Awards and the National Coming Out Day Awards--that recognized the contributions of LGBT and pro-LGBT individuals, businesses, and organizations to the community.

The Awards Committee solicited nominations and selected award winners. In 1994, HRL resumed the annual Cream City Brick Awards, which the Cream City Business Association had presented from 1984 to 1988, and which the Lambda Rights Network had continued from 1990 to 1992. HRL presented the Cream City Brick Awards at its annual meeting in February. In 1995, the committee began presenting National Coming Out Day Awards to recognize the efforts of individuals, organizations, and businesses that promoted and reflected a positive LGBT image through community participation. HRL presented these awards during National Coming Out Day activities in November.

The Legislative and Public Policy Committee (LPPC) promoted public policy that advanced human rights for gays and lesbians. The committee monitored public policy issues, recommended candidates for support and endorsement, lobbied, and networked with like-minded organizations.

The committee had several subcommittees, including the Election Committee, the Police Sensitivity Training Committee, and the Public Officials Reception Committee. The work of the Election Committee seems to have been carried out largely through the Community Election Coalition, a separate organization (described below). The Police Sensitivity Training Committee developed a cultural sensitivity and diversity training program for new recruits with the Milwaukee Police Department. This committee worked with the police department's Community Oriented Policing (COP) Advisory Committee, formerly the Committee Oriented Policing (COP) Coalition. The Public Officials Reception Committee held an annual reception for representatives of LGBT membership organizations to meet with elected and appointed public officials. Although technically a subcommittee of LPPC, the Public Officials Reception Committee consisted of individuals from many other LGBT organizations (e.g., Lesbian Alliance of Metropolitan Milwaukee, SAGE, Action Wisconsin, etc.). Prominent public officials who attended receptions include former Mayor John O. Norquist, former County Executive Thomas Ament, and former Police Chief Phillip Arreola.

The Membership and Fundraising Committee was responsible for maintaining and enhancing HRL membership, and for generating funds through grant-writing, mailings, etc.

The National Coming Out Day Committee coordinated, promoted, and implemented National Coming Out Day activities from 1994 until HRL dissolved in 1999.

The Political Action Committee (PAC) was formed in 1997 to increase pro-LGBT representation in local and statewide levels of Wisconsin politics. The need for a PAC became apparent when the LPPC, working with the Community Election Coalition, attempted to organize a forum for State Assembly candidates in the 8th district, and none of the candidates would participate. The PAC survived the dissolution of HRL in 1999 and continues to exist as the HRL-PAC today.

The Public Information Committee was responsible for monitoring and responding to media issues and inquiries, drafting position statements, and creating HRL's newsletter and brochures.

During its existence, HRL collaborated with many local LGBT groups around key issues. The Community Election Coalition (1996) was an alliance of Milwaukee-area political organizations--ACT UP Milwaukee, Action Wisconsin, HRL, Lesbian Alliance of Metropolitan Milwaukee (LAMM), Log Cabin Republicans, People of All Colors Together, Riverwest Rainbow Association, and Sherman Park Rainbow Association--formed to gather and distribute information about candidates and election issues. The Domestic Partnership Task Force (1997) consisted of HRL, LAMM, and the Riverwest Rainbow Association. It sought to establish a city registry for domestic partnerships, win domestic partnership benefits for city of Milwaukee employees, and network employees in the private sector to advocate changes in their own workplaces.