A Republican state representative in Rhode Island asked his lesbian representative if she was “a pedophile” last week while discussing a bill on marginalized state residents.
The bill in question, H.B. 5763, would require all legislation introduced in the state’s general assembly to include an “equity impact” statement assessing each bill’s effect on “historically disadvantaged” populations, Insider reported.
During an assembly hearing on the bill last Friday, Rep. Robert Quattrocchi (R) criticized the bill for being “very, very broad.” He asked the bill’s author, lesbian Rep. Rebecca Kislak (D), if lawmakers would need to submit impact assessments for religious populations like “Satanists” or different sexual orientations like “pedophiles.”
Kislak replied, “First, I want to point out that ‘pedophile’ is not a sexual orientation… That was really offensive.”
Quattrocchi replied, “Oh, I didn’t mean to. Are you a pedophile? I’m sorry.”
Kislak remained silent and looked visibly disappointed while Rep. Evan Patrick Shanley (D), who was overseeing the hearing, interjected, “I think we’re getting a little off track here.”
Quattrocchi said, “I didn’t mean to offend anybody.”
Shanley said, “It’s okay. Let’s just ask questions about the bill.”
Kislak then said that Quattrocchi’s comment was an example of why her bill was necessary. Following the interaction, Quattrocchi “packed up his stuff and left the hearing,” according to Uprise RI.
Quattrocchi has not publicly apologized for his comment, according to The Providence Journal. In a statement, he called the interaction a “misunderstanding” and said that he had apologized to Kislak on “four different occasions.”
“Because I have not been advised by the Speaker’s Office as to his intentions regarding this matter, I cannot offer further comment at this time,” Quattrocchi said in his statement.
On Tuesday, Kislak said of Quattrocchi’s statement, “It is not an apology.”
Gay Rhode Island House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi said that Quattrocchi’s comment was “reprehensible,” adding, “It was insulting to a colleague of the House and it is not the kind of decorum I expect in the House of Representatives.” He said that Quattrocchi should apologize “because the effect of his words were extremely hurtful to the LGBT community.”
In a joint statement, several advocacy groups — including GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), Youth Pride, Pride in Aging RI, LGBTQ Action RI, RI Queer PAC, Pride in Aging RI, and The Womxn Project — wrote, “The resurrection of such dangerous rhetoric based in bias and disinformation is part of what is fueling the flames of increased harassment and violence and a sweeping campaign of legislative attacks targeting LGBTQ+ people — primarily young people — across the country.”
Quattrocchi’s statement echoed that of other right-wing legislators who have accused LGBTQ+ people and allies of “grooming” children for child sex abuse. Such rhetoric has led to death threats against LGBTQ+ allied educators, healthcare providers, and drag performance venues.