February 7, 2016

Republican state representative announces he’s gay, urges colleagues to drop ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill (AUDIO / VIDEO)

A proposal in the House called the “Don’t Say Gay Bill” has a political satirist poking fun at Missouri … and a Republican representative coming out. The bill would prevent students in Missouri from forming gay alliance clubs or discussing homosexuality in schools.

Comic Stephen Colbert tore the bill apart on his nationally syndicated show, “The Colbert Report.” (Scroll down to see a video of the segment that aired on Comedy Central.) Meanwhile, Republican Rep. Zachary Wyatt Greencastle in Northeast Missouri says he’s gay, proud, and … still a Republican.

“I’m still a Republican legislator, I’m still going to vote on Republican issues,” he says.

Wyatt says amid a struggling economy when jobs bills are so important, he doesn’t understand why legislators are focusing on gay issues. And he says the GOP needs to take a good look at its ideals in relation to its members.

“The thing is, it’s getting legislators … to open their eyes and know there are people even within their own cauces who are gay,” he says, “and they need to be able to accept it. You know, the republican party is a big tent, and in my mind, everyone is welcome.”

“Even since the founding of our party, ind rights and freedoms,” Wyatt says. “It’s the foundation of our party and I think we need to start living more by it.”

The “Don’t Say Gay” bill doesn’t stand a chance at passage this late in the session, but it’s attracted a lot of attention to the Show Me State.

Wyatt was joined by other legislators in denouncing the bill. A statement was issued that said, “Bigoted statements and actions from Rep. Steve Cookson (R-Fairdealing), Rep. Dwight Scharnhorst (R-St. Louis) and other HB2051 supporters are exactly why Missouri needs strong, comprehensive anti-bullying legislation that protects all students from bullies. Anti-bullying legislation passed the Missouri General Assembly in 2006, but failed to include a list of students most often singled out and targeted for bullying. Without such a list in the law, school districts, administrators, and teachers do not have a clear understanding or training in how to recognize and handle all bullying situations. The Safe Schools Act would clarify these issues and reduce the negative impact of bullying upon LGBT students.”

Cookson is the bill’s sponsor; co-sponsors include: Speaker Steve Tilley (R-Perryville), Majority Leader Tim Jones (R-Eureka), John Diehl (R-Town and Country), Dwight Scharnhorst (R-St. Louis), Andrew Koenig (R-Winchester), Lyle Rowland (R-Cedarcreek), Charlie Denison (R-Springfield), Lindell Shumake (R-Hannibal), Kurt Bahr (R-St. Charles), Don Wells (R-Cabool), Eric Burlison (R-Springfield), Dave Schatz (R-Sullivan), Doug Funderburk (R-St. Peters), Jeff Grisamore (R-Lee’s Summit), Mark Parkinson (R-St. Charles), Paul Fitzwater (R-Potosi), Bill Lant (R-Joplin), Mike McGhee (R-Odessa) and Jay Houghton (R-Martinsburg).

Wyatt says a burden has been lifted from his shoulders and he decided not to live a lie about his sexuality anymore. He says his friends and family have been very supportive, as well as several of his colleagues in the House.

Cookson says he won’t withdraw the bill, but Wyatt says he’s grateful for the leadership shown by Rep. Scott Dieckhaus (R-Washington), who says he’ll make sure it doesn’t get a public hearing.

AUDIO: Jessica Machetta reports (1:23)

AUDIO: Listen to the full interview (8:24)