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Tennessee’s latest ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill dies in House committee

House sponsor vows to bring it back again next year
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A measure that would have forced schools to tell parents if their children have talked to a teacher or counselor about being gay has failed this session.

The House version of the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill died in the House Education Subcommittee on Tuesday for lack of a second.

The bill, which has languished in the state legislature for more than five years, proposes to limit all sexually related instruction to “natural human reproduction science” in kindergarten through eighth grade.

The House sponsor, Republican Rep. John Ragan of Oak Ridge, had planned to amend the legislation to require principals or counselors to give students a referral for psychiatric care if they bring up mental health or “lifestyle issues,” such as homosexuality.

The amended version would have been quite different than the Senate proposal, which sought to give schools the authority to inform parents about children who talk to school officials about their sexuality.

The Senate proposal, re-introduced in January by state Sen. Stacey Campfield (R-Knoxville), the original architect of the bill, included a provision that would require school officials to “out” LGBT students to their parents.

The bill passed in the Senate in 2011, but the companion bill failed in the House last year.

Since the bill was first introduced in 2008 by Campfield (then a representative in the state House), critics have charged that the measure is unnecessary, as state education officials have publicly said that alternative lifestyle discussions are already banned from the state school’s curricula guidelines.

Ragan said he plans to bring his version back again next year.

“I’m disappointed,” Ragan said. “I thought it was a good bill. It was about school safety.”

Another proposed bill in the Tennessee state legislature would allow graduate student counselors to reject clients based on religious beliefs.

That measure, if approved, would bar schools from disciplining students if they decline to treat clients with “goals, outcomes or behaviors that conflict with a sincerely held religious belief of the student,” such as opposition to homosexuality.

Last week, the state House passed a bill that would prohibit public universities and colleges from implementing non-discrimination policies for student groups.

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