E-Mail about 'Queer' Colleague Triggers Emotional Debate in Wisconsin
Madison, Wisconsin (CNSNews.com) - Hours after Wisconsin lawmakers announced the creation of a bipartisan Statesmanship Coalition to increase civility and overcome gridlock, one Assembly Republican fired off an e-mail labeling his Democratic colleague a "queer."
The e-mail, sent by Republican Rep. Michael Huebsch, went out as Democratic Rep. Tim Carpenter argued against a resolution honoring the Boy Scouts of America.
The message from Huebsch's laptop computer was sent to about 150 Republican colleagues on Tuesday. Huebsch, of West Salem, publicly apologized on Thursday, telling colleagues, citizens, and Rep Carpenter, "I am truly sorry for it." He admitted, "It was a foolish act and it will not happen again."
The Boy Scouts' ban on homosexual leaders has made the group a target of liberals and homosexual activist groups.
Huebsch's apology prompted nearly two hours of floor debate that had some members wiping away tears, reliving campaign dirty tricks, family loss and hurling labels - while simultaneously lobbying for love and respect.
Carpenter was first to respond to Huebsch in a floor speech that called for a fresh start. He paused periodically to fight back tears.
"It is of my opinion that the Republican Assembly is out of control," Carpenter said, adding the Assembly would self-destruct unless it changed its hurtful atmosphere. "I hope we see the errors of our ways and learn from them, and so we don't have bigotry and hatred and prejudice here."
Carpenter, who does not discuss his sexuality publicly, also said he was offended last session by the speech delivered by former Green Bay Packer Reggie White, now a minister, who condemned the homosexual lifestyle.
Carpenter suggested that the mother of Matthew Shepherd be invited to address the Assembly to discuss the danger of labelling people. Shepherd, a University of Wyoming student, was beaten to death by attackers who were offended by his homosexuality.
Carpenter received a standing ovation from the Democrats and half the Republican membership listening to his speech.
Republican Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen told members Huebsch had paid a heavy price for his offense. "He has been shamed on the floor of the State Assembly," Jensen said. Echoing Carpenter, Jensen added: "I believe we have reached the point where a new beginning should come. I don't think we want to wallow in this."
Republican Rep. Al Ott said he supported the calls for a fresh start and offered these words from Billy Graham: "One of the greatest problems facing mankind today is social injustice and it's worldwide. It's within the human heart and the human heart has to change." Ott quietly added: "That's the answer."
The resolution honoring the Boy Scouts that Rep. Carpenter argued against eventually passed the Republican-controlled Assembly by a 80-15 vote. It now goes to the state Democratic-controlled Senate, where its passage is in doubt.