Gay-rights advocacy groups on Wednesday asked General Assembly leaders to take a stand on gay-rights issues and respond to comments from a Republican lawmaker who said pedophilia and masochism are sexual orientations, just as homosexuality is a sexual orientation.
Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake, defended the comments, and said the news media’s coverage was "backward."
Stam said he was not likening homosexuals to pedophiles, merely arguing that each is a sexual orientation. But it was precisely that term that drew the ire of some who heard the comments.
North Carolina House Speaker and Republican U.S. Senate candidate Thom Tillis said Stam’s comments were "not helpful," but the gay rights group Equality North Carolina said that wasn’t good enough. The group joined Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan’s re-election campaign in telling General Assembly leaders they need to "clarify their positions on LGBT issues." Several lawmakers called Stam’s comments offensive.
Chris Sgro, executive director of Equality NC, said the group is looking for a comment from Senate Leader Phil Berger because Stam is his second-in-command in the House.
"We want to make sure we know where leadership in both chambers stand," he said.
Berger has not commented further on the remarks. Tillis’ campaign did not respond to a request for clarification and further comment Wednesday.
Stam made the remarks Tuesday during a debate over whether public charter schools should be prohibited from denying admission to students because of their sexual orientation. Stam argued that "sexual orientation" was not defined in the bill and needed to be narrowed so that it would not include pedophilia, masochism and other illegal sexual practices. He defined those practices, like homosexuality, as "sexual orientations."
Tillis said the comments were not the respectful approach the body should be taking on a policy issue such as charter schools.
On its website, the American Psychological Association says sexual orientation "refers to an enduring pattern of emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attractions to men, women, or both sexes," and also refers to a person’s sense of identity. It also says, "The American Psychological Association maintains that pedophilia is a mental disorder; that sex between adults and children is always wrong; and that acting on pedophilic impulses is and should be a criminal act."
The charter school bill was postponed on the House floor Wednesday. It is scheduled for a final vote Thursday and then will be sent to the Senate.
Sen. Brandon Marcus, who disputed Stam’s comments on the House floor Tuesday, filed a new amendment Wednesday that would prohibit a charter school from discriminating against applicants on the basis of sexual orientation. His amendment defines "sexual orientation" as "a person’s actual or perceived heterosexuality, bisexuality, homosexuality, or gender identity."