Kelda Roys

Kelda Roys

On this date in 1979, atheist legislator and activist Kelda Helen Roys was born in Marshfield, Wis. While she was growing up in Medford and Madison, her mother Krista was a part-time social worker and her father worked for the state Department of Regulation and Licensing. Her stepfather was an environmental lawyer. “Roys is my mom’s last name,” she told The Capital Times in 2011. “That’s how hippie my parents were.”

Roys earned a B.A. in 2000 from New York University, where she focused on politics, drama and cultural studies. She received a J.D. in 2004 from the University of Wisconsin Law School. Her primary legal interests were civil rights and international law, and she was a participant in the Innocence Project.

She served for four years as executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin, working to expand emergency contraception access through state and local policy. She was elected in 2008 to the Wisconsin Assembly, the youngest state legislator at the time at age 29. She ran successfully for a second term and was elected Democratic caucus chair and served as vice chair of the Committee on Health and Healthcare Reform.

Roys continued to practice law while serving as a legislator and in 2013 founded OpenHomes, a real estate brokerage. She spent several years as a commissioner for Madison’s Community Development Authority and as policy chair for the Clean Lakes Alliance. She has served on other boards, including ACLU of Wisconsin, Madison Repertory Theater and Common Cause.

In 2020 she was elected to a four-year state Senate term after winning a crowded primary and running unopposed in November.

Roys married Dan Reed in Iowa in 2011. He brought two daughters, Erin and Emily, to the marriage when they were 8 and 11. Roys and Reed, a business strategist before moving to American Family Insurance, have three children together: daughters Arcadia and Avalon and a son William, born in 2021.

“I identify as an atheist,” Roys told FFRF in 2022. “I was raised Unitarian Universalist, and we also celebrated a lot of Jewish traditions on my father’s side. I still sometimes attend the Unitarian congregation.” … Tying morality to religion is “patently false … two separate things,” she said. She calls her worldview a “humanist philosophy.” (“Freethought Matters,” Feb. 14, 2022)

She’s been a guest several times on FFRF’s TV and radio shows and was a panelist at the 2023 national convention in Madison.

Her interview only 10 days before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022 seems remarkably prescient in assessing the increasing influence of right-wing extremists working to install a theocracy: “Once they overturn Roe, they’re going to outlaw abortion, they’re going to highly restrict birth control and criminalize some birth control methods, and they’re going to roll back equality and protections for LGBTQ+ Americans. They’re working hard to insert a very narrow fundamentalist Christian view into the law that should terrify everyone, including Christians.” (The Humanist, June 14, 2022)

Freedom From Religion Foundation