A Republican Missouri House member has publicly announced he’s gay and is calling on GOP leaders to end legislation that would limit discussion of sexual orientation in public schools. Rep. Zachary Wyatt (pic), Kirksville, held a Capitol news conference at which he said he was disclosing his sexual orientation for the first time. Wyatt and several other lawmakers denounced a bill that would prohibit teaching, extracurricular activities or materials that discuss sexual orientation unless they relate to the scientific facts about human reproduction. The bill appears unlikely to pass before the session ends, but has generated attention. Republican Rep. Steve Cookson sponsored the bill and says he won’t withdraw it.
The foundation for their political beliefs is simple: all people are created equal. Missouri 14-year old eighth-graders Maja, Lucy and Symphonie released a political statement regarding gay rights. It asks viewers to speak out against bullying and advocate for marriage equality. The girls said their families have been supportive of their opinions and beliefs, but the debates come when they talk to their parents’ friends. “Usually, when adults try to discourage me because of my age, I try to share my point and my true interest in it,” Symphonie said. “I’m not one to keep my mouth shut,” said Lucy, whose friends laughed in agreement. “I’m definitely very outspoken.”
The ACLU, PFLAG National, the Matthew Shepard Foundation, Campus Pride and DignityUSA have filed a lawsuit against Camdenton R-III School District after the district ignored warnings that its Internet filtering software had been improperly configured to block access to web content geared toward the LGBT communities. “We have made every effort to inform the school district that its filtering software illegally denies students access to important educational information and resources on discriminatory grounds,” said Tony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Eastern Missouri. The ACLU informed the district last spring that its filter is unconstitutionally blocking access to websites with bullying information and other resources for gay-straight alliances. The district refuses to reconfigure its software to solve the problem.
“Our Safe Schools program resources, coming-out guides and other support and education resources that we have been providing to LGBT young people nationwide for nearly 40 years are all blocked,” said Jody M. Huckaby, executive director of PFLAG National. “Many LGBT students either don’t have access to the Internet at home or, if they do, they don’t feel safe accessing this information on their home computers. In order to ensure the physical and mental well-being of LGBT youth – especially given the wide access to negative information on LGBT issues – these resources must be accessible.”
Article adapted by Proud Parenting from original press release.
Results from the 2010 Census tells us that Missouri households led by same-sex couples increased by 60 percent over the last decade, compared to the 2000 Census. Almost one-quarter of those homes include children. About 15,000 households are led by same-sex partners in MO, more than 7,000 by male partners and 8,200 by female partners. The majority of same-sex households live in or near Missouri’s largest cities, including St. Louis, Kansas City and Columbia. The largest number of same-sex households is in Jackson County (Kansas City), which has more than a thousand each of male and female same-sex households. A decade ago, about 4,700 each of male and female same-sex households were reported in MO.
A man rejected by his parents as a teen for being gay has become coordinator for the Missouri Safe Schools Coalition, which includes Missouri’s only statewide GLBT advocacy organization. The coalition is made up of some 40 groups statewide, committed to passage of a stronger Missouri Safe Schools Act.
The law, updated in 2006, requires schools to create a policy addressing bullying. But leader Morgan Keenan and coalition members say the act is vague, void of guidelines and ultimately leaves students vulnerable.
The Missouri Safe Schools Coalition wants the law to specifically list the social categories to be protected from bullying and discrimination, language supported in bills sponsored by state Rep. Sara Lampe, D-Springfield. Those actual or perceived characteristics would include sexual orientation and gender identity. But Keenan said the proposal goes well beyond protections for gay and lesbian students, covering race, religion, gender, ancestry, disability, among various categories.
States with anti-bullying laws that specify protected classes report lower rates of bullying in schools. The organization points to a study from GLSEN, titled “From Teasing to Torment,” that shows 48 percent of Missouri high school students have reported bullying, name calling and harassment to be somewhat or very serious problems at their school, compared to the national average of 36 percent. The report found 27 percent of surveyed students reported being bullied because of perceived or actual sexual orientation, 18 percent due to disability and 11 percent because of religious reasons.
The partner of a Missouri State Police trooper killed in the line of duty says he is entitled to the same benefits as other survivors. Trooper Dennis Englehard (pictured with Kelly Glossip – his committed partner of 15 years) died in the line of duty on Christmas day 2009.
Englehard was killed when he was struck by a vehicle while on an accident call. Kelly Glossip and the ACLU filed a lawsuit, because Glossip believes he’s entitled to spousal benefits offered to others whose mates are also killed in the line of duty for the Highway Patrol.
The couple owned a house together, shared bank accounts and lived as a couple.
What’s been happening in the U.S. over the last ten years? A large increase in the number of gay and lesbian households in the middle of the country.
The Economist takes a closer look, “The increase was most pronounced in the Midwest, with Wisconsin showing an 81% jump in the number of same-sex couples and Minnesota, Nebraska, Kansas, Ohio, Iowa, Missouri and Indiana also among the ten fastest-growing states in this respect. What this means, perhaps, is that gay America is becoming more like Middle America. Gays who have children—and a quarter of gay couples do—gravitate towards there for the same reasons that straight parents do.”
So many of us want quieter surroundings, more grass, and good schools. The Midwest can offer all three.