If you have followed the Missouri House this year, and you don't wear a tin-foil hat meant to help ward off the laser beams from the black helicopters circling your bunker, then it will be no surprise that the Republicans filed another piece of extremist legislation last week.
The House already has passed bills that seek to demonize Muslims, question the president's citizenship and nullify both Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court.
So it should be no surprise that House Republicans now want to bully gay teenagers. But what is a surprise — make that an outrage — is that the top leadership of the House backs this hateful and unconstitutional attack on individual rights.
House Speaker Steve Tilley, R-Perryville, Majority Leader Tim Jones, R-Eureka, and Rules Committee Chairman John Diehl, R-Town and Country, are co-sponsors of House Bill 2051, which contains just one sentence:
"Notwithstanding any other law to the contrary, no instruction, material, or extracurricular activity sponsored by a public school that discusses sexual orientation other than in scientific instruction concerning human reproduction shall be provided in any public school."
The purpose of the bill, which mimics others that have been passed and overturned by courts elsewhere, is to ban Gay-Straight Alliances from forming. Those student groups, like other student groups from the Fellowship of Christian Athletes to the Spanish Club, are important — and constitutionally protected — extracurricular activities that keep students involved in their school.
In the case of gay students, the alliances also could be the difference between life and death.
There are too many cases, all across the country, of young people being bullied for being gay or for the suspicion that they are gay.
"This effort only serves to make youth more susceptible to harm and suicide by keeping teachers and administrators from providing support and guidance," said A.J. Bockelman, executive director of the gay-advocacy group PROMO.
Just this week, responding to the suicide of a gay teen who had been bullied in its community, the Sioux City Journal in Iowa published a courageous front-page editorialheadlined "We must stop bullying. It starts here. It starts now."
In Missouri, on the other hand, the House Republican leadership is the bully. That the House has become so extreme and so pandering to social conservative forces who peddle fear — Muslims will take over our courts, gays will recruit our children, immigrants will take our jobs and blacks will steal our elections — is emblematic of how badly our political system has disintegrated.
That St. Louis-area representatives — Mr. Jones and Mr. Diehl in particular — would sponsor such a loathsome bill in a cynical attempt to garner support from the right wing as they climb the legislative ladder is truly shameful.
We wonder how the parents of gay teens at the schools in their districts — in Clayton, Richmond Heights, Parkway and others — will respond to such bullying? What about the gay and lesbian lawyers in their firms or the businesses they represent?
There is no chance that HB 2051 will become law. There are enough grown-ups in the Missouri Senate to stop it in its tracks. But simply filing such a bill sends its intended message.
In Missouri, bullying isn't just allowed. It's encouraged at the highest levels.
Copyright St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Reprinted with permission