On Wednesday, Missouri Rep. Zachary Wyatt became the only gay Republican state level lawmaker currently serving (according to The Victory Fund) when he came out of the closet to fight the state's despicable "Don't Say Gay" bill. While the intense limelight has understandably made Rep. Wyatt's already busy schedule even more frenetic, he took a little time to chat quickly with Instinct about coming out to fight anti-gay bigotry in Missouri.
As we've reported, the Missouri legislature is currently considering "Don't Say Gay" legislation that seeks to forbid the discussion of anything LGBT related in its schools. Sparked by the vitriol surrounding debate of the bill, the 27-year old Air Force veteran came out of the closet to become the only openly gay state-level Republican currently holding office in the U.S.
"The drafting of House Bill 2051 and its injustice forced me to take a hard look at my life and political career," Rep. Wyatt told Instinct. "I felt that this was an opportunity to educate my party and hopefully see that bills like this are never sponsored again. Now, more than ever I felt that it was imperative to be honest to both myself, my constituents, and my party."
When asked if he was hesitant to come out because of his party affiliation, the lawmaker remained steadfast. "No, I came to this decision on my own," he said. "I happen to be a Republican, but more importantly, I am a Missourian and an American."
Luckily, most of the reaction has been positive. "While some surrounding me have voiced surprise, overall, I have been astounded and touched by the outpouring of support, from my district, state, across the country, and from around the world."
Though we can dream that the rush of support and national attention will keep Rep. Wyatt educating his party for some time to come, he says he plans to move to Hawaii to study marine biology instead of running for reelection. Lucky for us, he promises to continue fighting passionately for Missouri LGBT until then.
"As tempting as it is to try to ignore outrageous bills such as this, it is important to step up and speak out against every bill that is wrong," he said. "Regardless of what your beliefs are, and political differences, we all have to take a stand. Even if sometimes we stand for different things, we all have to stand our ground."
Aside from fighting "Don't Say Gay," Rep. Wyatt tells Instinct that he vows to continue standing ground for the gay community by pushing for an anti-bullying bill to land on Gov. Jay Nixon's desk by the end of this session.