In an unsettling turn of events, three Wisconsin Republican lawmakers, John Macco, Nate Gustafson, and Joy Goeben, recently attended a rally organized by the right-wing, anti-trans group known as Gays Against Groomers. This rally, held at Lambeau Field in Green Bay on October 28th, has drawn attention due to its false conspiracy theories and hateful signage.
Questionable Association with Anti-LGBTQ+ Group
Gays Against Groomers, identified as a right-wing American anti-LGBTQ+ organization, promotes the unfounded conspiracy theory that transgender individuals and their allies are involved in “grooming” practices to indoctrinate children into the LGBTQIA+ community. While the group had only a small number of attendees at their “Worldwide Stop the War on Children Rally,” the event raised concerns with its disturbing messages.
Hateful Messaging and Legislation Advocacy
Signs displayed at the rally alleged that LGBTQ+ activists engaged in child abuse and called for the support of Assembly Bill 465, aimed at banning gender-affirming care for minors, thereby preventing gender transition medical interventions for those under 18 years of age. Notably, Wisconsin’s Democrat governor, Tony Evers, has pledged to veto Bill 465 and other anti-trans bills, such as AB 377 and 378, which target trans athletes’ participation in sports teams that align with their gender identity.
Controversial Group Faces Legal Action
Gays Against Groomers, labeled as “one of the most notable propagators of anti-trans rhetoric” by the Southern Poverty Law Center, faced legal action in Wisconsin. The leader of the group’s Wisconsin chapter, Jose “Rocky” Rodriguez, received a restraining order from the Pulaski School District due to allegations of harassment. A Brown County circuit court commissioner granted a temporary restraining order in September, followed by a four-year restraining order in October.
Social Media Oversight Criticized
The national founder of Gays Against Groomers, Jaimee Michell, has affiliations with various anti-LGBTQ+ movements and served on the advisory board of Donald Trump’s “Trump Pride” coalition. In September, a report by Media Matters for America criticized Meta, Mark Zuckerberg’s company, for not taking adequate action against the group’s presence on Facebook, Instagram, and Threads. Despite violating user policies by spreading misinformation about transgender individuals and promoting the derogatory “groomer” slur and conspiracy theory, Gays Against Groomers continues to thrive on Meta platforms.
In a state where the fight for LGBTQ+ rights and inclusivity persists, the involvement of Wisconsin Republican lawmakers in this controversial rally raises concerns about the promotion of harmful conspiracy theories and the impact on LGBTQ+ communities in the region.