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Education Montana Politics

General Derek “Ain’t No Stonewall” Skees Makes a Bigoted Ass of Himself

I happened by this story in the Daily Interlake today, a piece about the Kalispell Public Schools considering adding protection for “gender identity, sexual orientation, gender expression” to their non-discrimination policy, and was struck by the sad reappearance of former Republican legislator and failed candidate for State Auditor and the Public Service Commission, Derek Skees.

Following moving testimony by former students and teachers who said they’ve experienced and seen discrimination based on gender expression and sexual orientation in the Kalispell schools, Mr. Skees rose to offer his enlightened opinion:

Only one audience member, Derek Skees of Kalispell, spoke against adding the phrases “gender identity” and “gender expression,” claiming they are mental disorders akin to bulimia or anorexia. Skees cited controversial research from Paul McHugh, a professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “What are we going to do, folks, when mental disorders now become part of a nondiscrimination component? I beg you, this has become a national issue — I suggest extremely politicized — based on a narrow viewpoint,” Skees said.

Nothing quite says I’m an unrepentant asshole quite like telling kids who have attempted suicide because of bullying related to their gender identity that they are suffering mental disorders. And there’s little as absurd as taking an opinion from someone who’s proudly worn Confederate gear in public or supported any of the nonsensical beliefs that have come from Skees over the years.

As for the doctor cited by Mr. Skees, well, Brynn Tannehill, of SPARTA, makes it clear he has no idea what he’s talking about:

Dr. McHugh is a self-described orthodox Catholic whose radical views are well documented. In his role as part of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ review board, he pushed the idea that the Catholic sex-abuse scandal was not about pedophilia but about “homosexual predation on American Catholic youth.” He filed an amicus brief arguing in favor of Proposition 8 on the basis that homosexuality is a “choice.” Additionally, McHugh was in favor of forcing a pregnant 10-year-old girl who had been raped by an adult relative to carry to term. If you want a detailed analysis of how Dr. McHugh has misrepresented data, rigged studies, left out significant details in his research, and is nothing more than a poorly regarded fringe element in his own field, you can read about it hereherehere, here, here, and here.

Some Republicans in this state like to pretend that their party isn’t filled with bigots and cranks, that we should overlook the comments made by former Representative Skees, Senator Howard, and the rest, but the truth is that for all the talk about liberty and the freedom to lead our lives the way we want, this hateful part of the Republican Party still dominates much of their thinking. Look no further than the spiteful, small-minded statements offered by our Republican Congressional delegation in the aftermath of the Supreme Court same sex marriage decision or their efforts to roll back local anti-discrimination ordinances in the Legislature for evidence of that.

It isn’t really support for liberty, if everyone isn’t liberated.

Kalispell is apparently a few meetings away from deciding on this policy, but I certainly hope they don’t let the bigoted fears of a loud but irrational minority scare them away from doing the right thing for kids.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.


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  • I am a member of the Kalispell School Board and unfortunately I missed this meeting. This was the first reading of the proposed changes to our school policy, two more are required before we vote. The good news is that there has been very little opposition to this policy change and I think it has pretty strong support among most members of our board. I need to give a lot of credit to a couple of my fellow board members, first Don Murray who not only brought this policy change forward but has championed it to where it is now. The other one is Jack Fallon who is chair of the policy committee, he has put in a lot of time and energy and has brought forth simple wording that will go a long ways towards insuring equality among our student body. It is unfortunate that individual school districts have to lead on this issue when it should have been dealt with by the state legislature. As for Derek Skees, very few people in the Flathead listen to him anymore, he has made it clear that he is a first class bigot, and most of us just wish he would just go away.

  • My question for Mr. Skees is just this: even if for the sake of argument, any of what he says is true (which it most definitely is NOT!) but just for the sake of argument….if it was – why would you want to discriminate against a child with a mental illness? That would be the height of cruelty in my book and this just shows what kind of a low-class person Mr. Skees is. He has shown himself to be the kind of person who thinks it is okay to torment someone who suffers from mental illness by this statement. Someone should call him on the carpet for this if nothing else. Disgusting!

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