Lawrence O'Donnell landed the first interview with Missouri Rep. Zach Wyatt, who decided to do the right thing and "come out" in more ways than one in opposing the homophobic House Bill 2051, which has rightfully been labelled the "don't say gay" bill which would prohibit any discussion of sexual orientation in public schools.
Here's more from The Kansas City Star on Wyatt's decision to openly oppose the bill -- Missouri lawmaker Wyatt comes out, denounces state's 'don't say gay' bill:
After deciding this year would be his last in the Missouri General Assembly, Zach Wyatt says he wanted to do something truly meaningful. He just didn’t know what.
But when news broke last month about a bill pushed by his fellow Republicans that would restrict discussion of sexual orientation in public schools — dubbed the "don't say gay" bill — Wyatt finally knew what he had to do.
On Wednesday, he publicly announced for the first time that he is gay. According to the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, a national group that works to elect gay, bisexual and transgendered people to public office, Wyatt is now the only openly gay Republican currently serving in a state legislature in the United States.
“I will not lie to myself anymore about my own sexuality,” said Wyatt, a first-term state representative, at a news conference in the Capitol. “Today I ask you to stand with me as a proud Republican, a proud veteran and a proud gay man who wants to protect all kids.”
The decision was not easy, he admitted. Wyatt, 27, grew up in Novinger, a rural town in northern Missouri with fewer than 500 residents. He lives just 10 miles away in Green Castle, where he raises cattle.
All throughout school he faced bullying for his weight and for “not always being perceived as the most masculine of men,” he recalled. Although he probably always knew he was gay, he said he was never able to truly accept it.
Progress Missouri has been following this issue closely and they posted the entire press conference O'Donnell highlighted a portion of here -- Bipartisan coalition calls for leaders to withdraw HB2051.
They've also launched the Okay to Say Gay project along with PROMO in response to HB2051 which would "eliminate discussions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in public schools, prohibit teachers from addressing bullying based on sexual orientation, and likely ban gay-straight alliances."
You can read more about that and watch the videos that have been submitted to the site here -- It’s OK to Say Gay!
While I was very happy to see Rep. Wyatt speak out in the manner he did, it's really a shame that this is the exception instead of the norm, and I was very disappointed to see him give his fellow Republican, Rep. Dwight Scharnhorst a pass for this statement as reported by the Huffington Post:
Scharnhorst told HuffPost that teaching about LGBT issues would lead to other discussions. "There is no need to talk about Billy wanting to marry a goat," he said.
While I can understand Wyatt's reluctance to go after someone he's been friends with and who apparently came back and talked to him to try to assure him he didn't mean to insult him, he was still comparing gay sex to sex with animals, and that's just completely unacceptable. "Off the cuff" or not, it's hate speech and the same language that used to be used for interracial relationships and marriages when it was still acceptable in the United States to dehumanize black people and compare them to animals as well. If Mr. Wyatt truly wants to defend the LGBT community and his fellow gay conservatives, he should be denouncing statements made like the one from his colleague and not making excuses for them.