JEFFERSON CITY | A Republican lawmaker from rural Missouri publicly announced this morning that he is gay and called for his party's leadership to denounce legislation aimed at limiting discussion of sexual orientation in public schools.
Rep. Zachary Wyatt, a Greencastle Republican, said he decided to disclose his sexual orientation for the first time publicly because of the debate over the so-called "don't say gay" bill. At a news conference at the state Capitol, Wyatt said this was his attempt to do something truly meaningful with his time as a state representative.
“I will not lie to myself anymore about my own sexuality,” he said.
Wyatt said he informed his family and close friends about his sexuality just last week.
"They were very, very supportive," he said. "I have a wonderful family."
The legislation would prohibit teaching, extracurricular activities or materials that discuss sexual orientation unless they relate to human reproduction. Critics say it could ostracize children who are exploring their sexual orientation and prevent meaningful intervention to stop bullying.
Republican Rep. Steve Cookson of Fairdealing sponsored the bill and says he won't withdraw it. He said the legislation only seeks to keep any discussion of sexual orientation out of the classroom and doesn't specifically mention homosexuality. Schools should focus on core subjects like math and science and leave everything else to parents, he said.
"When we start going off in other directions that I feel like are social engineering, we’ve lost focus on what our core mission in schools is, and that is to teach skills we need to be successful," Cookson said.
The bill has little chance of passing. It was assigned to the House Education Committee, where the chairman said it won't even get a public hearing. Cookson said he has no plans to add it to other legislation as an amendment.