In solidarity with “The Equality March for Unity and Pride” in Washington D.C. and sister marches and rallies around the country, Milwaukee held a rally on June 11 at the steps of the Federal Courthouse.

The companion event, “Milwaukee Rally for Unity and Pride,” was part of the grassroots movement that has worked to mobilize the diverse LGBTQ+ communities to peacefully and clearly address concerns about the current political landscapes, and how it is contributing to the persecution and discrimination of LGBTQ+ individuals.

Progress has been made over the past decade in the ongoing fight for LGBTQ+ inclusion, access, and justice, but that work remains fragile as it is threatened by increased hostile rhetoric, discriminatory policies, and violence perpetrated against the most vulnerable in communities.

Two of the feature speakers included State Representative JoCasta Zamarripa and State Senator Tim Carpenter, who recently introduced Marriage Equality legislation in Madison, along with Representative Mark Spreitzer. The package includes a constitutional amendment that would update Wisconsin’s laws to more effectively recognize same-sex unions for couples. It would repeal a 2006 amendment that defined marriage as between a man and a woman, which cannot be legally enforced since 2015 when U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage across the nation. Spreitzer, Zamarripa and Carpenter are three of the four openly LGBT members of the Wisconsin State Legislature.

“Wisconsin had been a progressive state. It’ll be 35 years, next year, that Wisconsin was the first state to protect a person’s sexual orientation from employment and housing discrimination in the United States. We were the first state,” said Senator Carpenter. “I think it’s important for us to set her own agenda here in Wisconsin again.”

The new director of the ACLU of Wisconsin, Chris Ott, and the executive director of Voces de la Frontera, Christine Neumann-Ortiz, also addressed the crowd. The overall message from all the participants was to join in peacefully opposing violence and discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals, and give voice to concerns over the trending policies of discrimination that target Americans base on immigration status, ethnicity, sexuality, gender, skin color, religion, and disability.

The gathering also memorialized the loss of 49 lives in Orlando last year, during the Pulse nightclub shооting that devastated the LGBT community across the nation.

This photo essay shares highlights from the public rally on Wisconsin Avenue, that took place on the last day of PrideFest before the annual Milwaukee Pride Parade, to stand in unity against injustice. Statements from two of the speakers, Elana Kahn from the Milwaukee Jewish Federation and Janan Najeeb from the Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition, can be found in the supplemental feature.