A debate on charter schools in Raleigh, North Carolina, was marred Tuesday after a Republican Representative suggested that an amendment to prevent discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation might be used to protect paedophiles.

After Democrat Representative Susan Fisher proposed an amendment to law on charter schools to prohibit schools “from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity”, Represenative Paul Stam questioned the definition of sexual orientation.

He handed out a sheet listing 30 definitions under the title of ‘sexual orientations’, including paedophilia and bestiality. He commented: “Sexual orientation is not defined anywhere”, and asked for clarification.

“Many, many sexual orientations are not the ones you want to have teaching kids in schools,” he said. “You may think you know what you mean by this but you don’t.”

Legislators at the debate immediately objected to Stam’s comments.

“It’s offensive. Pedophilia is not a sexuality, it is a disease. It is a problem that has to be addressed outside of this body,” said Democrat Representative Marcus Brandon.

Democrat Representative Tricia Cotham of Mecklenburg County later commented: “This is shameful. He needs to understand that his words and his actions are offensive and cannot be tolerated.”

Equality North Carolina Executive Director Chris Sgro told LGBT publication Q-Notes that Stam’s comments “represent not only an embarrassing display of anti-LGBT rhetoric in North Carolina, but a clear and present reminder of why these protections are so necessary — in our schools, in our workplaces, and at all level of everyday life in the state we call home.”

This is by no means the first time that comments have been made claiming homosexuality is equivalent to paedophilia.

In April this year, a food store in Oregon was boycotted after its owner claimed to fear that same-sex marriage would lead to the acceptance of paedophilia and bigamy.

In May, the UK government criticised the former chairman of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC) for linking school LGBT groups to paedophilia.

Last year, gay teens in Russia were tortured and publically outed online by neo-Nazis claiming to be an anti-paedophilia group.