MADISON — Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate Brian Hagedorn was paid more than $3,000 to give speeches to a Christian legal advocacy group that has supported criminalizing sodomy and sterilizing transgender people.
Hagedorn accepted the money for speeches he gave in 2015, 2016 and 2017 to Alliance Defending Freedom, based on his campaign filings with ethics regulators, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Wednesday.
The Southern Poverty Law Center labeled the Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom a hate group in 2016 because it has supported criminalizing sodomy, likened homosexuality to pedophilia and argued in favor of sterilizing transgender people.
The Alliance Defending Freedom represented a Colorado baker who refused to decorate a wedding cake for a gay couple and unsuccessfully challenged a Wisconsin law that allowed gay couples to form domestic partnerships.
Hagedorn campaign adviser Stephan Thompson said Hagedorn's speeches focused on career advice for law students and were "unrelated to the ADF's litigation goals and views." He did not provide copies of the speeches.
"Alliance Defending Freedom is one of the most respected constitutional litigation firms in the country, having argued and won many cases in the United States Supreme Court in recent years," Thompson said in a statement. "Judge Hagedorn takes no position on its legal cases or policy goals."
Thompson dismissed the Southern Poverty Law Center's designation of the organization as a hate group, calling it "irresponsible and unfounded."
Hagedorn faces fellow state appeals court judge Lisa Neubauer in the April 2 election. Hagedorn is backed by conservatives while Neubauer has support from liberals. The race to replace retiring liberal Justice Shirley Abrahamson is officially nonpartisan. Conservatives hold a 4-3 majority on the court.
Hagedorn has drawn attention in recent weeks for founding a Christian elementary school in 2016 that allows the firing of teachers for being gay and the expulsion of students if they or their parents are gay.
As a law student in the mid-2000s, Hagedorn wrote blog posts in which he argued that the U.S. Supreme Court's striking down of an anti-sodomy law could lead to the legalization of bestiality and contended that gay pride month at his workplace was "homosexual propaganda" that created "a hostile work environment for Christians."
In 2004, while Hagedorn was in law school, he interned with the Alliance Defending Freedom, which was then known as the Alliance Defense Fund.
Thompson did not say whether Hagedorn would step aside from any cases involving Alliance Defending Freedom that could come before him.
"Judge Hagedorn is refusing to recuse himself from cases involving an organization from which he has knowingly, personally profited," said Neubauer's campaign manager Tyler Hendricks in a statement. "Wisconsin voters will have to decide if they can trust him to be fair, impartial and independent."