Raleigh, N.C. — Advocates for gay and lesbian North Carolinians are calling on House Speaker Thom Tillis to explain his position on LGBT issues after inflammatory remarks on the House floor debate Tuesday by Tillis' second-in-command, Speaker Pro Tem "Skip" Stam.
In an emailed statement, Tillis described Stam's comments as "not helpful."
During a debate Tuesday, Stam, R-Wake, distributed a handout describing pedophilia, necrophilia and bestiality as "sexual orientations."
The House was debating Senate Bill 793, Charter School Modifications. A proposed amendment by Rep. Susan Fisher, D-Buncombe, would have banned charters from discrimination in hiring or admissions on the grounds of "sexual orientation or gender identity."
Stam's handout was from the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published in 2000, summing up its chapter on paraphilias (sexual attractions). It listed pedophilia, bestiality, necrophilia and prostitution as "sexual orientations."
The APA manual has since been updated to classify those paraphilias as "disorders," not "orientations," a fact Stam did not mention.
"Sexual orientation is not defined anywhere. I have here 30 different types of sexual orientation," Stam said. "I thought we should exclude pedophilia, masochism, and sadism, which are sexual orientations."
"Many, many sexual orientations are not ones you want to have teaching kids in school. You may think you know what you mean by this, but you don't," Stam said, saying that he would refrain from explaining the list.
The list was the same one Stam passed around in 2010 when arguing against including sexual orientation in the state's statute against school bullying.
Rep. Marcus Brandon, D-Guilford, the legislature's only openly gay member, took issue with Stam's handout.
"Pedophilia is not a sexuality, and we cannot continue in this body to keep calling things something [they're] not. It's offensive to a whole group of people," Brandon said. "It is a disease and a problem that has to be addressed outside of this body."
"The bigger issue here," Brandon continued, "is that in the state of North Carolina, we continue to have policies that treat people like second-class citizens. The LGBT community is a part of that problem.
"You cannot go up into a charter school of private school for that matter and say, 'I'm not going to accept black children.' That is illegal," Brandon said.
North Carolina law does not offer job protections for gays or lesbians, who can be fired at will for their orientation. Brandon said the state needs a more comprehensive approach to address the issue of employment discrimination.
"At least in this bill, we're talking about educating our children," he said in support of Fisher's amendment. "We will not say, 'Because of who you are, because of how you identify yourself – not as a pedophile, but as an LGBT person – that you are not eligible to go to this school.' And no school should be able to deny you because of that right."
Stam didn't get a chance to reply to Brandon because House Rules Chairman Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, used a parliamentary procedure to cut off debate and kill the amendment without a vote on the matter. The motion was supported on party lines, 68-44.
Afterward, Rep. Tricia Cotham, D-Mecklenburg, called Stam's remarks "inappropriate and inaccurate."
"I was extremely disgusted by what the speaker pro tem passed out to all members," Cotham said. "I found his actions to be offensive, and he needs to realize that words and actions can do tremendous damage to people.
"Discriminatory and hateful comments or inferences of any kind should not be accepted or allowed and certainly should not be circulated with state resources," she added. "I will keep him in my prayers."
Tillis, who is the Republican candidate in the U.S. Senate race against Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan this fall, did not vote on the motion to kill the amendment. It's not unusual for the speaker to decline to cast floor votes from the dais, but Tillis was not actually presiding over the chamber at the time.
Equality NC director Chris Sgro says Tillis and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger need to clarify "whether Rep. Stam speaks for himself or his caucus, or if they have a position more in touch with the values of our state."
Sgro described Stam's remarks as "a cheap political stunt."
"Sexual orientation and gender identity protections are widely supported by the mental health, business and education communities everywhere in the nation," Sgro said. "If Skip Stam wants to talk values, he needs to check back in with people from Murphy to Manteo on their desire to protect our kids. This state was built on fair access to education, and Stam is standing squarely against that.
"We would be happy to arrange a meeting for Rep. Stam or leadership and members of the medical, psychological and education community to help explain this vital issue," he added.
Tillis issued a response late Tuesday via campaign spokesman Daniel Keylin: "Rep. Stam's comments were not helpful to the respectful approach we ought to be taking on a policy matter that will ultimately improve educational opportunities for students across North Carolina."
Stam did not immediately respond to a request for comment.