Wisconsin State Assembly approves amendment to state constitution to restrict diversity policies News
Lectrician2, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Wisconsin State Assembly approves amendment to state constitution to restrict diversity policies

The Wisconsin State Assembly passed a constitutional amendment Thursday to restrict diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives within state and local governmental entities. Introduced by Republican representatives and cosponsored by select senators, the amendment aims to “prohibit governmental entity discrimination.”

Explicitly, the amendment declares:

A governmental entity may not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in public employment, public education, public contracting, or public administration.

Notably, this rule applies broadly, covering state agencies, local governments and every level of public education. As advocates contend, it is an essential move towards a merit-based system that they believe will dismantle perceived biases embedded within current DEI policies.

This legislative move is part of a broader initiative led by key Republican figures like Assembly Speaker Robin Vos. Last December, Vos advocated for an extensive examination of DEI roles within state government, which significantly reduced diversity positions at the University of Wisconsin. Vos and like-minded legislators believe this policy aligns with the principles of a “truly colorblind society.”

“Our caucus objective has always been aimed at dismantling the bureaucracy and division related to DEI and reprioritizing our universities towards an emphasis on what matters – student success and achievement,” Vos said in the statement.

While the amendment now awaits review in the state’s Senate, it has ignited a firestorm of debate. Democratic legislators and civil rights groups argue that the amendment could reverse progress in addressing longstanding social disparities and weaken diversity within public institutions. Governor Tony Evers and his administration openly criticized the approach and pledged to continue supporting diversity efforts in the face of legislative challenges.