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MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry on Zach Wyatt

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Published on May 8, 2012

MSNBC
May 5, 2012 Saturday
SHOW: MELISSA-HARRIS-PERRY 10:00 AM EST

HARRIS-PERRY: Up next, can you believe that until this week, there wasn`t a single out gay Republican state lawmaker? That all changed a few days ago. It`s a big enough deal that it`s our foot soldier this week right after the break.

HARRIS-PERRY: Our foot soldier this week showed us how sometimes the simplest of actions can have an indelible impact. The story takes place in Jefferson City, Missouri. On April 18th, a Republican state representative introduced HB-2051 to the Missouri state legislature.

The bill quickly became known as the "don`t say gay" bill. It reads in part, "Notwithstanding any other laws to the contrary, no other materials or extracurricular activities sponsored by a school that discusses sexual orientation other than in scientific construction concerning human reproduction shall be provided in any public school."

The translation? You can`t talk about sexual orientation in public school.

Enter Zachary Wyatt. Mr. Wyatt, a 27-year-old former Air Force officer and current Republican Missouri state representative -- his simple acts was speaking. On Wednesday, State Representative Wyatt urged his party to table the bill.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STATE REP. ZACHARY WYATT (R), MISSOURI: Students need to be able 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And then Mr. Wyatt said something else. Something he didn`t have to. You see, the law wasn`t even scheduled for a vote. There was no imminent danger of the bill becoming law, but Zach Wyatt decided to say this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WYATT: I will not lie to myself anymore about my own sexuality. It has probably been the hardest thing to come to terms with. I`ve always ignored it. I didn`t even think about it or want to talk about it.

I have not been immune to it. I hear the comments, usually snide ones, about me. Today, I ask you to stand with me as a proud Republican, a proud veteran, and a proud gay man who wants to protect all kids addressing bullying in our schools.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS-PERRY: A proud gay man, a proud Republican. In fact, Mr. Wyatt`s decision to come out made him the only openly gay Republican serving in the Missouri state legislature.

The act of coming out is often difficult, always personal for any gay or lesbian person, but Wyatt chose to do so not in private but in a public forum, within the structure of the state apparatus, to push back against what he saw as a damaging and intolerant piece of proposed legislation.

By speaking, Wyatt reminded his colleagues and all of us that the closet is not a privilege. By revealing his own identity, he declared that no citizen should be forced into shadowy silence as a precondition of full political participation.

And for that, he is our foot soldier this week. And we credit him for reminding us that sometimes just saying who you are can be a giant step forward.

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