By Shereen Siewert

The fate of a resolution to declare Marathon County an open, inclusive and diverse place to live and work remains in question after the Executive Committee failed to pass the measure.

According to Board rules, any two supervisors can bring the resolution before the full board even after failing to pass in committee. Unclear is whether that will happen after Thursday’s 6-2 vote defeating the resolution.

The “Community for All” resolution, under consideration since January, has widespread support from local nonprofits including the United Way of Marathon County and The Women’s Community, but has faced strong criticism from conservative members of the Marathon County Board of Supervisors and the Republican Party of Marathon County.

During Thursday’s meeting, Women’s Community Executive Director Jane Graham Jennings said she was shocked to learn of such strong opposition to a resolution that she said would bring the community together.

“When I attended a town hall meeting a few weeks ago I kept rereading the resolution thinking I must have had a bad copy because I couldn’t see anything that was divisive,” Graham Jennings said. “I keep looking and wondering how this will harm anyone…it’s saying that everyone has a chance and an opportunity and that this county and County Board wants to make sure everyone feels welcome here.”

But others who spoke, including Republican Party of Marathon County Chair Jack Hoogendyk, said the resolution is “nothing more than critical race theory under a new name,” amounting to Marxism.

“Equity sounds non-threatening and is easily confused with the American principle of equality,” Hoogendyk said. “In the name of equity, some have proposed suspending private property rights, seizing land and wealth, and redistributing it along racial lines.”

Public comment continued for more than an hour during the meeting.

The resolution is not the only one to have drawn criticism and controversy in Marathon County. In February, a resolution to recognized Black History Month passed, but 12 of 38 board members voted against the measure. And in 2019, a “Pride Month” resolution recognizing the rights of all citizens in Marathon County regardless of age, gender identity, race, color, religion, marital status, national origin, sexual orientation, or physical challenges sparked dozens of letters to the editor and thousands of comments on social media, both for and against the declaration. The resolution passed by a vote of 20-15.