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Missouri Representative Explains 'Don't Say Gay' Announcement

A Republican member of the Missouri House came out of the closet this week during a press conference on a bill that would limit public schools from discussing sexual orientation in the classroom. 

Representative Steve Cookson sponsored HB 2051; he said that schools should focus on teaching the basics like math and reading, and leave discussions about sexuality to families.  

During the press conference, Representative Zachary Wyatt of Kirksville told reporters he has deep regrets for not taking stands earlier against school bullying.

"Since the founding of my party, individual equality and freedom have been its foundation." Wyatt said.  "As we all know, political life is like living in a glass house, and everything is known about you.  I have come to realize that living in that glass house I have been even able to see things about my life that I had kind of hidden away, even from myself.  I will not lie to myself anymore about my own sexuality."

Wyatt called for lawmakers to shelve the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

"Students need to feel safe when they go to school, and be able to speak with teachers, counselors and administrators when they are getting bullied.  This bill will make that illegal."

Wyatt, a freshman lawmaker, had already announced that he planned to leave office at the end of the term to attend the University of Hawaii. He said he wanted to do something significant before he left.

"If I can save one kid from hurting themselves, or possibly taking their life, than I have done my job as a representative."

On Wednesday, the same day as the press conference, St. Louis Public Radio's Marshall Griffin caught up with Representative Wyatt in a noisy hallway to ask about the controversial bill and his decision to come out in the Statehouse.

This story was produced for KC Currents, which airs Sundays at 5pm with a repeat Mondays at 8pm. To listen on your own schedule, subscribe to the KCCurrents podcast.

Marshall Griffin is the Statehouse reporter for St. Louis Public Radio.
Sylvia Maria Gross is storytelling editor at KCUR 89.3. Reach her on Twitter @pubradiosly.
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