EVERS OATH

Gov. Tony Evers, joined by his wife, Kathy, took the oath of office Monday at the Capitol.

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers used his first day in office to send a message about the state's treatment of LGBTQ individuals by issuing an anti-discrimination executive order and including students affiliated with a local LGBTQ youth advocacy organization in his swearing-in ceremony. 

Evers' first executive order as governor requires state agencies to develop policies banning discrimination against their employees and the people they serve on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. 

"Each person in Wisconsin deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. This fosters sound government, society, and business, and it's just the right thing to do," Evers said in a Facebook post on Monday.

Evers' administration will also develop a model anti-discrimination policy that will be distributed to all state employees. The order also stipulates that recipients of state contracts and grants may only hire on the basis of merit and may not discriminate on the basis of any classes protected by the state. 

Also under the order, the state's Equal Employment Opportunity program will include programs that "emphasize harassment prevention and cultural diversity awareness." 

Fair Wisconsin executive director Megin McDonell praised the move as "an important step towards making sure our state is a safe place for everyone to live, work, and play."

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"This Executive Order modernizes our state’s internal policies to make sure Wisconsin government employees are judged solely on their job performance, not who they are or who they love," McDonell said in a statement. "Our state is at its strongest when we’re all free to work hard, earn a decent living, and go about our lives without fear of discrimination."

Evers signed the order after an inauguration ceremony that featured students from GSAFE, a Madison-based LGBTQ+ youth advocacy organization, leading the Pledge of Allegiance. 

A second executive order also signed Monday calls for leaders of state agencies to "actively work to recognize the valuable contributions of state employees, promote positive morale, and foster a collaborative work environment."

The order also requires cabinet secretaries to evaluate staff morale and turnover rates and to develop strategies to "recruit and retain the best and brightest Wisconsin workers." 

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Jessie Opoien covers state government and politics for the Capital Times. She joined the Cap Times in 2013 and has also covered Madison life, race relations, culture and music. She has also covered education and politics for the Oshkosh Northwestern.