After weeks of discussion on a bill that would restrict students from talking about their sexuality in Missouri public schools, Republican state lawmaker Zach Wyatt decided he'd had enough. While it's virtually impossible for the bill to pass through the General Assembly at this point, Wyatt nonetheless called a press conference. He lambasted the bill—and then came out as gay.
His hometown newspaper, The Kirksville Daily Express covered the event, in which Wyatt introduced himself as "a proud Republican, a proud veteran and a proud gay man who wants to protect all kids." He didn't hold back in his comments:
'I will not lie to myself anymore about my own sexuality. It has probably been the hardest thing to come to terms with. I have always ignored it. I didn’t even think about it or want to talk about it. I’ve not been immune to it. I hear the comments, usually snide ones, about me,' Wyatt said.
'I am not the first or last Republican to come out. I have just gotten tired of the bigotry being shown on both sides of the aisle on gay issues. Being gay has never been a Republican or Democrat issue, and it should never be.'
Wyatt hasn't always been so forthright. He voted against a non-discrimination bill last year and in the past has towed his party's line when it came to school bullying. But the latest bill, evidently, just went too far. Sponsored by Representative Steve Cookson, the bill would limit any discussion of sexual orientation to "scientific instruction concerning human reproduction." That means no gay-straight alliance clubs, no mention of sexuality in classes like history or literature, and most disturbingly, students might not be able to talk to teachers about homophobic bullying, leaving educators unable to address what we know is a rampant problem for gay youth. According to The Riverfront Times, there's been widespread outcry from educators and healthcare workers about the hazards of such a measure.
The bill has almost no chance of passing at this point. Monday, Cookson's in-depth interview with alternative SEMO Times's managing editor Tim Krakowiak drew more attention to the measure. In the interview, Cookson explains that "My personal belief is, yes, it is a sin being homosexual." He also details his concern that tax dollars are going towards the gay agenda, as it were:
Krakowiak: How are our tax dollars being spent, as you said, to promote political agendas of a sexual nature? How is this happening in schools?Cookson: OK. Evidently, they say there are 80 school sponsored gay-straight alliances. There are 80 of those that are school sponsored—is the way I understand it—across the state. So those are some tax dollars. There are, I have heard, maybe a handful of schools that have curriculums that include sexual orientation such as things like, you know, it’s alright to have two moms. It’s alright for children to have two dads.I’m not against people that want to have that lifestyle. I just don’t know if we want… the one thing that is for sure is that these people that live these other lifestyles, they are not reproducing. They are not reproducing. And I think that there are some people that believe—and I want to say some people… it has been brought to my attention that they believe that they are using this, since they can’t reproduce, to recruit people into that lifestyle.
Wyatt, a 27 year-old cattle rancher from a rural part of the state, has already announced he won't be running for re-election and instead will head to the University of Hawaii to study marine biology. Meanwhile, Cookson hopes to be around next year and see where his bill can go.