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Anti-LGBTQ judge claims victory in Wisconsin Supreme Court race

Republicans appear to have gained control of Wisconsin's top court until at least 2023.

Anti-gay protestors in 2004 (Photo by Michael Springer/Getty Images)
Anti-gay protestors in 2004 (Photo by Michael Springer/Getty Images)

Judge Brian Hagedorn, a former aide to ex-Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) who named Justice Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch as his judicial role models, is the apparent winner of a close contest for an open seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Though a recount is likely, Hagedorn holds a nearly 6,000 vote lead over his opponent, Judge Lisa Neubauer, with 99 percent of the votes counted.

Wisconsin Supreme Court races are technically non-partisan — neither Hagedorn’s nor Neubauer’s political affiliations were listed on the ballot — but these races typically settle into two-person contests between a liberal and a conservative. Tuesday’s race for the open supreme court seat was no exception.

Hagedorn’s apparent victory would give Republicans a 5-2 majority on the state supreme court. The GOP controlled this court since 2008, and it used that control to insulate voter suppression laws and partisan gerrymanders intended to lock Republicans into power and shield them from state judicial review. A Hagedorn victory also means that Republicans will control the court until at least 2023 — Democrats would need to win races in 2020 and 2023 to regain control of the court.

As a law student in the mid-2000s, Hagedorn authored a blog where he mocked a landmark gay rights decision by the Supreme Court of the United States and made derisive comments about gay sex. Hagedorn’s anti-LGBTQ blog posts were first reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

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In at least two blog posts, Hagedorn compared sex between two men or two women to bestiality, and falsely suggested that the Supreme Court’s decision in Lawrence v. Texas, which held that the government may not criminalize unpaid sex between consenting adults, would also require the courts to strike down laws banning sex with animals.

“It strikes me that the travesty of a decision that was Lawrence v. Texas should render laws prohibiting bestiality unconstitutional,” the justice-in-waiting wrote in one piece. In another, he claimed that the “idiotic attempt at reasoning” in Lawrence required the government to legalize sex with dogs.

In another piece, Hagedorn told an odd story about the time when he complained to the human resources department at a law firm where he used to work because the firm showed solidarity with sexual and gender minorities during Pride Month:

During Gay & Lesbian Pride Month, I expressed my frustration with my workplace’s attempt to have us all “celebrate” homosexuality and other sexual deviances. They posted pictures of homosexual & transexual [sic] teenagers, including a crossdresser [sic], with descriptions of their “story.” In light of this, I sent an email to my HR Supervisor (who, as it may be, was a lesbian) expressing my disagreement with the indoctrination…I resent being told by my workplace what the moral status is of various sexual behaviors. What was being sold was not tolerance, but homosexual propaganda. Moreover, this served to create a hostile work environment for Christians.

In fairness, these blog posts are more than a decade old, but Hagedorn does not appear to have changed his views as he’s aged. In 2016, the judge helped found a school in Waukesha County which forbids “immoral sexual activity” by teachers, students, or even parents of students, and lists such activity as grounds for dismissal. The school defines immoral sexual activity as “any form of touching or nudity for the purpose of evoking sexual arousal apart from the context of marriage between one man and one woman.”

At least as of last February, Hagedorn remained a board member at the school.

In the likely event that Hagedorn takes a seat on the state supreme court, he will potentially have the chance to write his idiosyncratic idea of what constitutes a “hostile work environment for Christians” into the state’s law.