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Tennessee Senate Committee Passes “Don’t Say Gay” Bill

Jim Burroway

April 21st, 2011

A Tennessee Senate committee approved a bill that would prohibit teachers from discussing homosexuality before the ninth grade, a measure that would jeopardize anti-bullying programs in middle schools.

The measure, SB49 (PDF: 36KB/1 page), was introduced by Sen. Stacey Campfield (R-Knoxville). As originally written, it stated, “Notwithstanding any other law to the contrary, no public elementary or middle school shall provide any instruction or material that discusses sexual orientation other than heterosexuality.” Sen. Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville) tried to sidetrack the measure, noting that current state law already prohibits such instruction because it falls outside the “family life curriculum” adopted by the state Board of Education. His amendment to refer the matter to the Board of Education for further study passed. But his efforts were effectively derailed when Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) proposed a further amendment, requiring that the Board of Education “shall adopt” Campfield’s original ban after the study is completed by February 1.

The bill now goes to the full Senate for a vote. Campfield has unsuccessfully pushed the “don’t say gay” bill for the past six years. An identical measure, HB229, has been introduced in the House by Rep. Bill Dunn (R-Knoxville) where it has been assigned to the Education Committee.

Campfield has come under criticism for trying to profit from his bill. He sought a $1000 “retainer” fee to debate his bill with an LGBT advocate. Tennessee law prohibits legislators from seeking payment related to their legislative duties outside their salary.



April 21st, 2011 | LINK

Does the ban also include religious anti-gay material in the public school?

Richard W. Fitch
April 21st, 2011 | LINK

It should be noted that the gay advocate referred to is Del Shores, creator of “Sordid Lives”, Southern Baptist Sissies” and a number of other droll productions. If you are a member of FB, you may want to check out his fan page which includes the recent correspondence between him and Mr. Campfield.

Regan DuCasse
April 21st, 2011 | LINK

This coming from people who are all about 1st amendment rights. I swear the bald faced hypocrisy and double talk doesn’t seem to have ANY limits.

This is SO stupid! And this is about restricting VITAL education, in an educational setting. I can’t even begin to understand how any educational body will advocate for IGNORANCE, especially dangerous ignorance that’s been proven to be deadly dangerous for children in places that should be safer havens.

There is nothing to justify, religion based OPINIONS, against science based facts on sexual orientation. Such things can’t trump facts and evidence. But educational institutions will make and exception when it comes to gay lives?
That’s a disgrace on so many levels. This is akin to a school resenting teaching the truth about Jews and blacks, and rather than do that, ban discussions on blacks and Jews.

I mention those groups, because to prohibit discussions about groups that have already been historically libeled, maligned, mytholized and discriminated against, is to further the problem, not solve it.

April 21st, 2011 | LINK

Yes, let’s not allow teachers to use the word “gay” in an educational setting while at the same time doing absolutely nothing to teach kids not to use “that’s so gay” or “fag” as slurs.

Sean Santos
April 21st, 2011 | LINK

The section of the Tennessee code being referenced states:

“With respect to sex education courses otherwise offered in accordance with the requirements of this subsection (a), no instructor shall be construed to be in violation of this section for answering in good faith any question, or series of questions, germane and material to the course, asked of the instructor and initiated by a student or students enrolled in the course.”

So at least it’s possible for a kid to bring the subject up without being slapped down. That’s a very mild consolation; it’s still the case that the teachers themselves can’t talk about it. This is obviously a serious problem with respect to sex ed. But beyond that, it can have an effect on discussing literature, current events, and famous figures.

And it makes it really unclear about what liability teachers might be exposed to. What if a kid has to give a presentation or book report, and talks about having gay parents, or discussion of LGBT issues in a book? Do teachers have to walk a fine line between “responding to questions” and “providing instruction”? And to what purpose? So that clueless parents can pretend that their child won’t find out about gay people until age 14?

Sean Santos
April 21st, 2011 | LINK

For that matter, part of the same section states: “This section shall not apply to [list of courses about biology and health that are not sex ed courses].” Since it says “section”, it seems to provide exemptions for this new bill, which introduces language only in that section. Yet the new bill says “Notwithstanding any other law to the contrary” and discusses primary schools in general, not just sex ed, implying that there are no exemptions at all. There’s a contradiction here; can a biology or health class talk about non-heterosexuals or not?

April 21st, 2011 | LINK

This doesn’t surprise me. The religious fundamentalists have banned same sex marriage in about 30 states. They are now busy trying to ban same sex couples from adopting children (e.g., AZ and VA). The next step is to ban free speech about gays and lesbians in schools.

I can’t help but wonder what will be next?

Richard Rush
April 21st, 2011 | LINK

Doesn’t this Fundi-driven anti-gay-bill fall into the category of rearranging the deck chairs on their Titanic or sticking their finger in a dike (not dyke)? The final outcome of the war on gays is no longer a question of IF we will win, but HOW SOON we will win.

Tim Trent
April 21st, 2011 | LINK

In the UK we had the notorious Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 which went further. (See for details).

We repealed this disgraceful law in 2003 after more than one attempt. We were pretty backward when we introduced this law. We’ve grown up since those days. The USA seems to be heading for repression and thought crime today.

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