Tennessee‘s infamous “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which just months ago lawmakers scrapped in favor of strengthening an abstinence-only sex education law, yesterday quietly was passed by an 8-7 vote and is slated to be voted on in the full Tennessee House as early as tomorrow, despite the Tennessee Governor’s protests. It is uncertain if the Governor will sign it but likely it will become law one way or another.
Lawmakers, after two years of debating the “Don’t Say Gay” bill — which prohibits any discussion, mention, or acknowledgment of homosexuality whatsoever in Tennessee public schools, especially in grades K-8 — abandoned the bill when it was discovered that not only does Tennessee not offer sex education in grades K-8 but the bill could have been used as an opportunity to allow teachers to discuss sex in grades K-8.
In short, Tennessee lawmakers spent two years debating a bill that would have had the exact opposite effect as intended, and prohibited conversations that were not going to happen in the first place.
Of course, being the Tennessee Legislature, the House has now decided to move forward on the “Don’t Say Gay” bill after passing the strengthened abstinence-only sex education law, despite all evidence that abstinence-only sex education actually increases teen pregnancy rates. The just-passed strengthened abstinence-only sex education law actually classifies and prohibits holding hands as “gateway sexual activity.”
“Bill sponsor Rep. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald, and others argued that outside groups and some teachers slip those conversations in, and the bill serves as an accountability reminder,” The Tennessean reported:
“I have two children — in the third- and fourth-grade — and don’t want them to be exposed to things I don’t agree with,” Hensley said. “… Even though the state board disallows this now, I’m afraid it does happen, and sex education is talked about in a way that it is acceptable.”
Schools caught in violation of the state’s sex education policies can have state money withheld, and teachers face a $50 fine and up to 30 days in jail, according to state law. The bill passed the Senate last year.
The “Don’t Say Gay” bill grew in infamy after Tennessee Senator Stacey Campfield, who co-sponsored the Senate’s version of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, traveled the country earlier this year making statements to the media like it is “virtually impossible” to contract HIV/AIDS through heterosexual sex.
Tennessee lawmakers are working hard to ensure Tennessee students are as ignorant and Christian Bible-directed as possible. Yesterday, the Tennessee Legislature’s bill that protects teachers who teach creationism, and those who welcome so-called “debate” on culture war issues like global warming, became law, without Governor Bill Haslam’s signature. The Republican Governor saw the bill as even too crazy for his state.
Image via Flickr.
We invite you to sign up for our new mailing list, and subscribe to The New Civil Rights Movement via email or RSS.