Last week, reports emerged of a state legislative hearing on a proposed “Don’t Say Gay” bill in Missouri in which the committee chair had to ask the audience to stop laughing at the responses of the bill’s sponsor to questions about the sexuality of Martha Washington. Heartland Signal got video of that encounter, and it is as good as that preview promised.
The questions in this brutal/brutally funny section were being asked by Republican state Rep. Phil Christofanelli. Christofanelli is anti-abortion, anti-worker, and pro-gun—but he’s also one of a very few LGBTQ Republicans to have served in the Missouri state legislature, and he does not like the language of this bill.
The bill, modeled after Florida’s notorious “Don’t Say Gay” law, was introduced by Republican state Rep. Ann Kelley, who does not seem very clear on how to defend her bill or on who Martha Washington was. She is, however, absolutely clear about whose existence she does not think kids should ever hear about.
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PC: I’m just going to read you the language in your bill. ‘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?
AK: His … wife?
PC: Under your bill, how could you mention that in a classroom?
AK: So, to me, that’s not sexual orientation.
PC: Really? So it’s only really certain sexual orientations that you want prohibited from introduction in the classroom.
AK: Do you have language to make that better? To make it where you’re not talking … ?
PC: Lady, I didn’t introduce your bill. 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?
[Here there appears to be an edit in the video.]
AK: We all have a moral compass, and my moral compass is compared with the Bible.
PC: Lady, I think during 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.
AK: You can believe something without, without, without putting that onto somebody by the way you behave, and you can have beliefs and morals and values that guide you through life.
PC: I don’t dispute that, but I’m asking about the language of your bill and how it would permit the mention of the historical figure Martha Washington, could you explain that to me?
AK: So what did she, why is she famous? Is she famous because she was married to George Washington?
PC: It seems like that would be a relevant fact in her biography, yes. Could it be mentioned under the plain-reading language of your bill? Is that a no?
AK: I don’t know, sir.
It … sounds like Kelley thought Martha Washington might be someone who would show up in history classes if she had not been married to George. Either that or she’s a lot more sarcastic than her tone or literally anything else she said would imply.
At one point not shown in the video, reporter Galen Bacharier tweeted, Christofanelli asked, “It seems like the things that you want to prohibit are targeted to one particular group that you find disfavorable. Are there any other groups that you don't think should be mentioned in the context of MO education?” And Kelley responded, “Not that I’m aware of.”
Yes, it absolutely is just the anti-LGBTQ bigotry, no pretense of anything else. This is about removing whole groups of people from any public visibility or recognition—which means telling kids who might be LGBTQ themselves that their existence is something shameful to be hidden, and sending kids who are not a message about how to treat their LGBTQ peers. Today’s Republican Party is all about promoting bigotry, one law, one speech, one lawsuit at a time.
DeSantis signs cruel 'Don't Say Gay' bill into law and sets a dangerous precedent
What do Americans really think about the issues? It turns out they are a surprisingly liberal bunch, as Rachael Russell of Navigator Research tells us on this week's episode of The Downballot. Russell explains how Navigator conducts in-depth research to fill in gaps in policy debates with hard data instead of pundit speculation. The challenge for Democrats is that many voters say they hold progressive beliefs but still pull the lever for Republicans. That imbalance, however, presents an opportunity—Democrats just have to seize it.
Co-hosts David Nir and David Beard also recap the first round of voting in the race for Chicago mayor, which saw a progressive apocalypse averted; the resolution to the long-running uncertainty over the speakership in the Pennsylvania state House that saw Joanna McClinton make history; Rep. Elissa Slotkin's entry into Michigan's open Senate race, which makes her the first prominent candidate to run; and the inexplicable decision by conservatives to go dark on the airwaves for a full week following last week's primary in the Wisconsin Supreme Court race.