To hear the Show Me Today interview with State Senator Greg Razer, click below (13:10).

State Senator Greg Razer is in Washington, D.C. for Tuesday’s signing of the bipartisan Respect for Marriage Act, which protects same-sex and interracial marriages in federal law.

State Sen. Greg Razer, D-Kansas City, speaks on the Missouri House floor on March 28, 2019 (file photo courtesy of Tim Bommel at House Communications)

Razer, D-Kansas City, is openly gay. He grew up on a cotton farm in Cooter, Missouri. He attended an evangelical church on Sundays. The southeast Missouri town’s population is about 400 people.

“It was a tough place to grow up being closeted and feeling alone and different,” said Razer. “My senior year in high school, I was suicidal, like so many LGBT teens are.”

At 12:06 a.m. on February 26, 1999, Razer came out of the closet. He was a student at the University of Missouri-Columbia at the time.

“A weight lifted off of my shoulder,” he said. “I was free for the first time. I don’t know if I can explain that to non-LGBT people.”

The first person he told was his college roommate and best friend to this day. Razer recalls sitting in their “very poorly decorated college apartment” at the time.

“There was a moment of kind of stunned silence,” said Razer.

The first question his roommate asked is whether Razer was in love with him. Razer said no.

As his roommate looked around their apartment, he asked, “If you’re gay, then why isn’t this apartment decorated better than this?”

“It was just a funny moment and one I’ll never forget because it told me nothing had changed,” said Razer.

By the end of that month, Razer thinks all of his college friends knew he was gay.

So many others are still hiding in the closet.

“Think about going home for the holidays that are coming up and you can’t bring your significant other,” he said. “You can’t talk about your significant other. You have to pretend like that person doesn’t exist. Or you’re still in the closet, and you’re 44 and you’re single. You have to make up excuses for why you’re single. Your whole life becomes a lie. Your whole life becomes a secret. You can’t share with your family. You can’t be close to your family because you don’t want them to know if you’re in the closet.”

Tuesday’s bill signing marks the third LGBTQ bill in history to receive Congressional approval. The last one was in 2010, repealing the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy, which had to do with forcing military members to conceal their sexual orientation.

President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden invited Razer to the bill signing ceremony. Razer said he is honored to be a part of this historic moment.

“It was quite a surprise,” he said. “This is not something that you get every day- to be invited to the White House, especially someone who grew up in Cooter, Missouri, down in Pemiscot County.”

Razer thanks Democratic House members Cori Bush and Emanuel Cleaver for supporting the legislation. He especially thanks Republicans Ann Wagner and U.S. Senator Roy Blunt for their support.

“I know those were tough votes for them, with the base of their party, but history is going to look back on them kindly for that vote,” said Razer.

He responds to Missouri Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler, who calls the bill “misguided and dangerous”.

“Vickie has built her career on being sort of the most homophobic person in any room that she walks into. She called it dangerous. I would ask her, ‘What is it about me that you find so dangerous? What is it about Clarence Thomas and his wife that you find dangerous?’ That’s part of this bill,” said Razer. “Today any church, any preacher, pastor, priest can refuse to marry anyone for any reason. They have the right to marry – not the obligation to – and nothing changed about that.”

Hartzler gained national attention for breaking down in tears during last week’s floor debate on the bill. Hartzler said she wants to “protect religious liberty, people of faith and Americans who believe in the true meaning of marriage.”

Missouri Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer, Sam Graves, Billy Long, and Jason Smith also opposed the bill.

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