KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Two Republican lawmakers have introduced bills in the Tennessee state legislature that would prohibit use of the words “gay” and “homosexual” in elementary schools, and ban discussion of all LGBT topics whatsoever.
The bills, sponsored by State Sen. Stacey Campfield and Rep. Bill Dunn, both Republicans from Knoxville, are intended to spell out how schools can introduce sexuality — and specifically, only heterosexuality — to students.
The bill, known as House Bill 229 or Senate Bill 49, says in part:
“No public elementary or middle school shall provide any instruction or material that discusses sexual orientation other than heterosexuality.”
At least one group says that’s anti-gay – and calls it the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
“The ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill raises all kinds of issues about anti-gay bias, free speech and government overreach,” said Ben Byers with the Tennessee Equality Project.
Gay rights activists say the bills are another effort to further discriminate against LGBT people, while advocates say the bills’ intent are about having age appropriate curriculum.
The Tennessee Equality Project disagrees, and says there is no curriculum in Tennessee that discusses sexuality in grades K-8, so the bill is unnecessary.
The bill “limits what teachers and students are able to discuss in the classroom,” Byers said. “It means they can’t talk about gay issues or sexuality even with students who may be gay or have gay family.”