JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- A Republican state representative in Missouri, saying he is growing increasingly bothered by a "Don't Say Gay" bill proposed by fellow lawmakers, came out today and urged his colleagues to drop the legislation.
Rep. Zach Wyatt, R-Green Castle, becomes only the fourth openly gay member of the Missouri Legislature. Last month, Wyatt announced that he would not seek a second term for the Missouri House so that he could study marine biology at the University of Hawaii.
Wyatt spoke today in front of some of his colleagues in a hearing room at the state capitol, calling HB 2051 a "horrible" bill and describing what it was like to be bullied as a child.
“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, addressing bullying in our schools,” Wyatt said.
Wyatt talked about living in denial about who he was, and that he would no longer hide his sexuality.
“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 also apologized for taking Republican Party stances that differed with his own personal beliefs, expressing regret for voting "no" on the state's non-discrimination act.
HB 2051 lead sponsor is state Rep. Steve Cookson, R-Fairdealing, who contends that schools should not spend taxpayer dollars on discussions of sexual orientation. Critics of HB 2051 say that the bill amounts to censorship.
Stephen Colbert even weighed in on the measure, mocking it on his comedy show.
HB 2051 currently is lingering in the House Education Committee. The panel's chairman, Scott Dieckhaus, says the bill will not likely make it out of committee.
Wyatt, 27, served in the Air Force, working as a linguist speaking Russian, Chechen, Ukrainian and Georgian. He is a beef cattle farmer who was elected to his first two-year term in November 2010.
He also is president of Novinger Renewal, and involved in various civic groups in the Kirksville area.
Wyatt can be reached at Zachary.Wyatt@house.mo.gov.
Ken Williams is Editor in Chief of SDGLN. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, @KenSanDiego on Twitter, or by calling toll-free to (877) 727-5446, ext. 713.