Lawmakers in Tennessee are considering legislation that would protect bullies who harass other students for their sexual orientation.
The so-called “license to bully” bill (HB 1153/SB 0760) would allow students to share any “religious, philosophical, or political views” that are “unpopular,” regardless of their consequences to the learning environment, and limits educators’ ability to curb such harassment.
Equality advocates lodged an email protest campaign against the measure, but were particularly surprised by the reaction of state Rep. John Ragan (R).
In a long letter to one opponent of the bill, Ragan replied that gay “feelings” can be controlled by “mentally healthy adult human beings,” and concluded by stating, “Should society avoid disapproving of pedophilia, prostitution, murder, etc., because practitioners of those behaviors may commit suicide at higher rates?” An excerpt from his letter:
Examining another statistic, it has been well known for a decade that suicide is attempted much more frequently in the homosexual community than in the heterosexual community (Mathy, Cochran, Olsen, & Mays, 2009). This same source pointed out that, on average, suicide is approximately three times more likely among homosexuals than heterosexuals.
As a fitting critical thought question, it could be asked if other identifiable groups that engage in behavior of which “others may disapprove” commit suicide at similar rates? In other words, do prostitutes, pedophiles, polygamists, murders, etc., commit suicide at the same, or similar, rates to homosexual behavior practitioners?
If similar rates were hypothetically so (not proven to be the case), do these behavior practitioners commit suicide at a higher rate because someone may have disapproved of their behavior or for other reasons? Should society avoid disapproving of pedophilia, prostitution, murder, etc., because practitioners of those behaviors may commit suicide at higher rates?
The mindset behind the measure undermines research that shows that the presence of LGBT-inclusive anti-bullying policies, supportive staff, and gay-straight alliances help minimize bullying.
In addition to this bill, the Tennessee legislature will also reconsider the infamous “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which prevents teachers and staff from providing any educational support about LGBT identities.