A Republican state representative in Missouri introduced a bill banning “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” instruction in schools and got quite a grilling by a gay fellow rep.
State Rep. Phil Christofanelli (R) had little patience for his Republican colleague, Ann Kelley, laying bare her lack of understanding of her own bill and demonstrating how discrimination can cut both ways.
Kelley is sponsoring House Bill 634, which she says is modeled in part after Florida’s Don’t Say Gay law. It was unclear after her testimony if the three-term rep. authored the legislation herself or was bringing the bill to the floor on behalf of an outside organization.
Kids are “very naive and easily influenced,” Kelley said in remarks introducing the proposal. “Therefore, we must keep our educational instruction pure, without the political nuances.”
Christofanelli wasted little time getting to the crux of the issue.
“I’m just going to read you the language in your bill,” Christofanelli says. “‘No classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties relating to sexual orientation or gender identity shall occur.’ Lady, you mentioned George Washington. Who is Martha Washington?”
Kelley asks, “His wife?”
“In your bill, how could you mention that in the classroom?”
“To me, that’s not sexual orientation,” Kelley replies.
“Really?” says Christofanelli. “So it’s only really certain sexual orientations that you want prohibited from introduction in the classroom.”
After Kelley invites Christofanelli to offer clearer language, the gay rep is nonplussed.
“Lady, I didn’t introduce your bill,” he says. “And I didn’t write it. You wrote it. And so I’m asking what it means. Which sexual orientations do you believe should be prohibited from Missouri classrooms?”
“I have a moral compass,” Kelley replies indignantly, avoiding the question. “My moral compass is compared with the Bible.”
“Lady, I believe in your testimony, you said that you didn’t want teachers’ personal beliefs entering the classroom. But it seems a lot like your personal belief — you would like to enter all Missouri classrooms.”
Asked again repeatedly if Martha Washington was up for discussion, Kelley finally conceded: “I don’t know, sir.”
Reaction from Christofanelli’s supporters was unequivocal.
“Absolutely perfect, no notes,” commented one Twitter user. “Corner them with their hatred and bigotry and they will either admit it out loud or have to admit they simply don’t know what they’re talking about.”
Another wrote: “She is so close – SO CLOSE – to getting it. Like, she actually says it…”
A third user was taken with Christofanelli’s honorific for Kelley: “Everytime he called her ‘Lady,’ my credit score went up.”
For the record, “Lady” is a commonly used form of address in the Missouri Assembly.
Also for the record: Kelley introduced a nationally panned dress code for women in the Missouri House earlier this year that required ladies’ arms to be concealed in the chamber.
Stephen Taylor, a high school teacher in Kansas, also testified before the committee and argued Kelley’s proposal doesn’t protect kids, just a particular viewpoint.
“What really is going to protect students is legislating things that are actually dangerous,” like guns, Taylor told the committee.
“I talk to my students every day, and I talk to them about their sexuality. I’m open about those conversations and I’m not going to stop,” Taylor testified.