As of the 2010 census, the population was 56,833. Its county seat and largest city is Portage. The county was created in 1846 as part of the Wisconsin Territory.
Local Nondiscrimination Ordinances
In 1982, Wisconsin was the first state in the country to pass a statewide law prohibiting discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations based on sexual orientation. Unfortunately, this law does not extend to gender identity and expression, leaving transgender and nonbinary individuals vulnerable to discrimination. As a result, communities across Wisconsin have passed ordinances to create local protections while together, we build support among the public and policymakers for statewide protections.
Cities in Columbia County with LGBTQ+ local nondiscrimination ordinances.
Local Conversion Therapy Protections
Conversion "therapy" laws prohibit licensed mental health practitioners from subjecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) minors to harmful conversion "therapy," a widely discredited practice that seeks to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity. These laws do not restrict the practice among religious providers. For an in-depth analysis of these laws, please read LGBT Policy Spotlight Report: Conversion Therapy Bans by Movement Advancement Project. For additional information, visit our partners at the National Center for Lesbian Rights and The Trevor Project.
Cities in Columbia County with LGBTQ+ local conversion therapy protection.
Inclusive school nondiscrimination policies
Wisconsin’s pupil nondiscrimination law (state statute 118.13) does not protect students based on their gender identity and gender expression. A clear majority of Wisconsin school districts, however, have added these protections to their local Pupil Nondiscrimination and/or Access to Equal Educational Opportunity policies.
Without these protections, transgender and nonbinary students could be denied admission to any public school and denied participation in, be denied the benefits of or be discriminated against in any curricular, extracuricular, pupil services, recreational or other program or activity.
While exact wording varies district to district, "gender identity" is the most commonly used phrase to indicate protections for transgender and nonbinary students. We used this measure to determine the presence or absence of inclusive policy. If inclusive policy is present (ie, includes the term “gender identity”), a district earns a “Yes.” If not, it earns a “No.” In some cases, we were unable to obtain a copy of a district’s local nondiscrimination policy and designated them as “Unclear.”
For more information on Wisconsin's Pupil Nondiscrimination Law, including steps for filing a complaint, please visit the DPI website.
School districts in Columbia County with LGBTQ+ inclusive school nondiscrimination policies.
Inclusive School Nondiscrimination Procedures
Procedures help educators implement inclusive nondiscrimination policies and provide guidance around topics such as privacy, names and pronouns, restrooms and changing areas, field trips and overnight accommodations, dress codes, physical education, interscholastic athletics, and more. Procedures are adopted locally and vary from district to district.
Some districts adopt procedures that contradict their nondiscrimination policy and runs counter to the best practices that support the well-being and success of transgender and nonbinary students. For instance, while it is best practice to use the name and pronouns any student wishes to go by, some districts have procedures that prohibit this for transgender and nonbinary students under 18 without parental consent.
Additionally, it is best practice to allow students to participate in interscholastic athletics in a way that aligns with their gender identity. Most districts with guidance procedures defer to the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association’s (WIAA) transgender athletes policy, which effectively prevents the participation of transgender and nonbinary students in competitive athletics, particularly transgender girls.
School districts in Columbia County with LGBTQ+ inclusive school nondiscrimination procedures.