Tenn. Lawmakers Advance ’Don’t Say Gay’ Bill
A Tennessee House subcommittee this week has given the green light to the "Don’t Say Gay" bill, the Tennessean reported.
The bill, which was introduced by Republican state Sen. Stacey Campfield, would prohibit public school teachers from mentioning homosexuality and LGBT issues to students until they enter the ninth grade. Additionally, the measure would mandate that only "natural human reproduction science" be taught in public schools.
The House Education Subcommittee approved the bill on a voice vote. The state Senate passed the measure during last year’s session and the full House is expected to vote on the bill before the Legislature adjourns in the spring.
Those who support the proposal say it will allow parents to control when and howtheir children learn about LGBT issues. Campfield said elementary and middle school students should not hear about gays because "homosexuals don’t naturally reproduce."
"The basic right as an American is my right to life, my right to liberty and my right to the pursuit of happiness," added state Rep. John DeBerry. "Within that includes being able to run my home, raise my children as I see fit and indoctrinate them as I see fit."
Opponents of the "Don’t Say Gay" bill say that students who hear anti-gay slurs and incorrect information about the LGBT community before reaching the ninth grade won’t be correctly educated on gay issues.
"As introduced, the bill requires that ’no public elementary or middle school shall provide any instruction or material that discusses sexual orientation other than heterosexuality,’ " noted a posting at Change.org. "This bill would tie the hands of school counselors, school psychologists, teachers, principals and other school employees in protecting our children. If a child is experiencing issues relating to their sexual orientation or identity, they would be unable to discuss those issues with the adults who are supervising and teaching them. Early detection of the signs of depression can help prevent suicides among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth."
A number of students from Nashville high schools who oppose the bill showed up during the hearing on Wednesday. Many wore purple T-shirts while others stood in the street with purple tape covering their mouths.
"To me, they’re sending a message that in society gay people aren’t really equal," said Thomas Kibby, a student from Hume-Fogg High School. "This law would be kind of moving backwards."
Rev. Thomas Kleinert, the pastor of Nashville’s Vine Street Christian Church, also criticized the measure.
"Our children have to deal with that complexity long before they’ve reached sufficient maturity," he said. "Silence in the classroom only adds to the cloak of pain and shame, whereas open, age-appropriate conversation may give them a chance and the courage to talk to an adult they trust."
A Tennessee representative also introduced the "Bathroom Harassment Act," which would fine a transgender person $50 for using a public bathroom or dressing room. The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Richard Floyd, defended the act in an interview and even said he would physically harm a trans person.
"I believe if I was standing at a dressing room and my wife or one of my daughters was in the dressing room and a man tried to go in there--I don’t care if he thinks he’s a woman and tries on clothes with them in there--I’d just try to stomp a mudhole in him and then stomp him dry," said Floyd. "Don’t ask me to adjust to their perverted way of thinking and put my family at risk. We cannot continue to let these people dominate how society acts and reacts."
Tennessee does not recognize marriage for gays and lesbians, nor does it recognize other forms of same-sex partnerships. The state also does not have anti-discrimination law based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Tennessee’s hate crime statute does, however, include sexual orientation