La Crosse mom starts petition calling on lawmakers to adapt Wisconsin hate crime statute

Marie Varble says she wants her petition to reach at least 1,000 signatures

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – The community continues to push state lawmakers to change Wisconsin’s hate crime laws following the attack of two transgender teens in La Crosse’s Copeland Park.

Travis Crawford is charged with two felony crimes, but community members say that’s not enough.

Local elected leaders admit more work can be done to address violence against transgender people.

Now, a La Crosse mom is hoping she can help make change through an idea of her own.

When something hits us close to home, sometimes it’s better to act than do nothing.

“Hate really has no home here, or anywhere,” La Crosse mom Marie Varble said.

Varble says her 15-year-old daughter was targeted during a 4th of July party this year, just for being who she is.

“She had firecrackers thrown at her and her friends, and homophobic slurs yelled at them,” Varble said.

Varble did not report the incident to police, but believes her daughter was the victim of a hate crime.

“I honestly didn’t really think about it,” Varble said. “Just like other people have spoken out about, there’s a lot of hate that happens that’s not reported.”

Varble and a growing number of others believe the alleged attack of two transgender teens at Copeland Park is also a hate crime.

“I don’t even know the victims,” Varble said. “It just, it hurt.”

But this time, she acted.

“I just figured they need some justice,” Varble said.

She started a petition calling for state lawmakers to change Wisconsin’s hate crime statute to include gender, not just sexuality.

“Hopefully this happens,” Varble said. “It was horrific what prompted it, but it’s needed.”

Leaders from the 7 Rivers LGBTQ Connection in La Crosse have already signed the petition.

“I think it’s amazing that somebody in the general community was able to set that up,” executive director Alesha Schandelmeier said. “It helps to show that there are people out there who are paying attention.”

Varble says she thinks her petition will influence state lawmakers to do what she believes is the right thing.

“I think that people are going to listen, and the lawmakers do realize a change is needed,” she said.

More than 600 people have signed Varble’s petition. She’s hoping she can reach at least 1,000 signatures.

The petition is available here.