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Controversy Surrounds Speaker Pro Tem's Comments on Sexual Orientation

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RALEIGH -- A top state lawmaker is facing heavy criticism for a handout he distributed to members of the NC House of Representatives Tuesday.

Critics say the outdated information compares homosexuality to pedophilia.

“Sexual orientation is not defined anywhere,” House Speaker Pro Tem Paul “Skip” Stam said during debate on the House floor Tuesday. “I have here 30 different types of sexual orientation,” he said referring to a list of "sexual orientations” he distributed to all House members.

The debate was over changes to public charter schools. One amendment presented during the debate would have prohibited charter schools from discriminating against student applicants based on their sexual orientation. The amendment was turned down.

“I was flabbergasted at the comments but I was even more flabbergasted at the fact we actually had a handout to try to support that type of comment,” said Rep. Marcus Brandon, a Democrat representing Guilford County. Brandon is the only openly gay member of the General Assembly.

Stam's handout was taken from the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the Fourth Edition published in 2000. It's titled "What Is A Sexual Orientation" and lists thirty things, including heterosexuality, homosexuality and pedophilia.

“For me, it's offensive personally for someone to compare your life to something like pedophilia,” Brandon said.

He, like many others, took issue with Stam's use of the outdated information.

The American Psychiatric Association has since changed its categorization of pedophilia and similar sexual interests as disorders, while homosexuality remains a sexual orientation.

“Rep. Stam knows exactly what he was doing,” Brandon said. “He did it to invoke fear.”

Rep. Stam wouldn't talk with Time Warner Cable News on camera, but he said he never mentioned homosexuality in his discussion on the House floor.

Stam said he was trying to make the point the term "sexual orientation" is too broad to be used in a law because “sexual orientation” means different things to different people.

“The real point here is there isn't a definition for sexual orientation in state law, so the point he was trying to make is where does it stop?” said Tami Fitzgerald with the NC Values Coalition.

Fitzgerald describes Stam as an advocate for traditional family values, which makes him a target for liberals, particularly during an election year.

Speaker of the House of Representatives Thom Tillis, who is also running against Democrat Kay Hagan for US Senate, issued this statement about the incident:

"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."

Listen to Rep. Stam speaking on the House floor and Rep. Brandon’s response below:

TWC News: Controversy Surrounds Speaker Pro Tem's Comments on Sexual Orientation
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