Wisconsin State Assembly in session
The Wisconsin State Assembly is photographed during a session on June 7, 2023, in the Wisconsin State Capitol building in Madison, Wis. (Drake White-Bergey / Wisconsin Watch)
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Wisconsin Watch is a nonprofit and nonpartisan newsroom. Subscribe to our newsletter to get our investigative stories and Friday news roundup. This story is published in partnership with The Associated Press.

Gender-affirming surgery for minors would be banned in Wisconsin under a Republican-sponsored bill that won final approval in the GOP-controlled Legislature on Tuesday.

In other legislative action Tuesday, the Assembly passed a compromise plan to spend more than half-a-billion dollars in public money to help cover repairs at the Milwaukee Brewers stadium. The funding plan calls for the state to contribute $411 million and the city of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County to contribute a combined $135 million.

Evers vows to veto gender bill

The Assembly passed the rapidly moving bill banning gender-affirming care last week.

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has vowed to veto the measure that drew dozens of people in opposition to a hearing at the Capitol earlier this month.

Democrats were united against it in both the Assembly and Senate, but didn’t have the votes to stop it.

“This bill is nothing short of cruel,” Democratic Sen. Mark Spreitzer said during debate. He questioned why the Senate was taking it up given Evers’ vow to veto it. “Stop hurting LGBTQ kids.”

Democrats and other bill opponents, including those representing the LGBTQ+ community, argue that introducing the ban adds to mental health challenges that transgender and nonbinary youth already face.

Republican supporters have suggested that the opinions of medical experts will change on the importance of gender-affirming care, though it has been available in the United States for more than a decade and is endorsed by major medical associations.

“Protecting children from invasive and irreversible medical interventions is the right thing to do from a scientific and ethical standpoint,” the bill’s lead Republican sponsor, Sen. Duey Stroebel, said during debate.

Republican lawmakers across the country want to limit the rights of transgender youths, sparking fierce pushback from the transgender community and triggering discrimination lawsuits along the way.

At least 22 states have enacted laws restricting or banning gender-affirming medical care for transgender minors, and most of those states face lawsuits. Gender-affirming surgery for minors is rare, with fewer than 3,700 performed in the U.S. on patients ages 12 to 18 from 2016 through 2019, according to a study published in August.

The Wisconsin bill is one of several in the state targeting transgender people that Evers has vowed to veto. Republicans don’t have enough votes to override the vetoes.

The Wisconsin Assembly last week also passed three bills limiting transgender youth participation on sports teams. The Senate has yet to schedule those for final votes.

In Wisconsin, only the Wisconsin Catholic Conference and the conservative group Wisconsin Family Action have registered in support of the bill banning gender-affirming surgeries. More than two dozen groups have registered against it, including Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and other health care providers, the Medical College of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Council of Churches and the Wisconsin School Social Workers Association.

Brewers stadium funding heads to Senate

The Senate is expected to vote on the Brewers stadium plan in November, but senators may attach amendments and send the measure back to the Assembly, the proposal’s sponsors said. Both houses must agree on the same version before the plan can go to Evers for his signature.

“We’ve got to get it done,” Evers told reporters before the vote. “I’m ready to support it as is.”

The Brewers contend that American Family Field’s glass outfield doors, seats and concourses should be replaced and that luxury suites and video scoreboard need upgrades. The stadium’s signature retractable roof, fire suppression systems, parking lots, elevators and escalators need work, as well. Team officials have hinted the Brewers might leave Milwaukee if they don’t get public assistance for repairs.

The state money would come in the form of grants. The local contribution would be generated from an existing fee the state Department of Administration charges the city and the county for administering local sales taxes. Any fee revenue not used to administer the taxes would go to the stadium.

The Brewers have said they will contribute $100 million to repairs and extend their lease at the stadium through 2050 in exchange for the public money. The lease extension would keep Major League Baseball in its smallest market for at least another 27 years.

Rick Schlesinger, the Brewers president of business operations, said the Assembly vote Tuesday shows the package has momentum.

“Today’s bipartisan vote creates a path to provide … resources needed to help keep Major League Baseball in Milwaukee for the next generation,” he said.

Still, approval was far from unanimous. Sixteen Assembly Republicans ultimately voted against the package along with five of the 11 Democrats who represent Milwaukee.

Public funding for professional sports facilities is hotly debated across the country. The Brewer’s principal owner, Mark Attanasio, has an estimated net worth of $700 million, according to Yahoo Finance. The team itself is valued at around $1.6 billion, according to Forbes.

Still, groups have registered in support of the public assistance plan, including the Brewers, the Mechanical Contractors Association of Wisconsin, the Association of Wisconsin Tourism Attractions and the Tavern League of Wisconsin, a powerful lobbying force in the Legislature.

Only two groups have registered in opposition: conservative political network Americans for Prosperity, and Citizen Action of Wisconsin, a group that describes itself as working for social and environmental justice.

Popular stories from Wisconsin Watch

Scott Bauer is the head of the AP bureau in Madison, covering state government and politics.

Todd Richmond is a reporter with The Associated Press who covers the Wisconsin state legislature as well as breaking news and enterprise stories throughout the state.