Wisconsin legislator apologizes for gay slur

A Republican legislator apologized from the floor of the Wisconsin assembly Thursday for calling another lawmaker “queer,” prompting a 90-minute debate about name-calling in the body. The episode was prompted by a sometimes contentious debate about a measure to commend the Boy Scouts of America. In an E-mail to 150 fellow Republicans, Rep. Michael Huebsch complained about Rep. Tim Carpenter, a Democrat: “Where was the civility when the Queer from the 9th rushed the podium in 1995?” Huebsch was referring to an incident when assembly leaders would not allow Carpenter to speak on the floor. Carpenter, who has declined to discuss his sexual orientation, accepted Huebsch’s apology. “There’s been a lot of hurt and hatred going on in this body,” Carpenter said to a hushed chamber. “I hope we see the errors of our ways and learn from them so we don’t have bigotry and hatred and prejudice here.” When he was finished speaking, most of his colleagues gave him a standing ovation, although the Republican leadership did not join in. After Carpenter’s speech, members of the assembly engaged in a bitter debate about Huebsch’s apology, Carpenter’s response, and name-calling in the body. Democratic representative Mark Pocan, the only openly gay member of the assembly, said he approved of Huebsch’s apology but said that the E-mail sent the message that gay bashing is acceptable. “It allows those people with the wrong, twisted mind-set—somehow it allows them to think it’s all right,” Pocan said. Republican representative Lorraine Seratti then complained about Carpenter’s and Pocan’s comments. “Because we hold a certain value within our hearts and our spirits and our souls does not mean that you should be intolerant of our views,” Seratti said. “We are all entitled to our views as well.”

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