NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee’s controversial “Don’t Say Gay” bill — a measure that would limit all sexually related instruction to “natural human reproduction science” in kindergarten through eighth grade — was again delayed on Tuesday by its sponsor.
State Rep. Joey Hensley (R-Hohenwald) acknowledged there are problems with the measure, and postponed the measure so lawmakers can review a more comprehensive proposal that would place restrictions on “family life education” curricula taught in schools, reported the Memphis Commercial Appeal.
Under the new proposal, the family life education curriculum would “encourage students to communicate with a parent, guardian, or other trusted adult about sex or other risk behaviors.”
The bill is not intended to be an alternative to Hensley’s “Don’t Say Gay” measure, but rather to address Tennessee’s high ranking for teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
Rep. Jim Gotto (R-Hermitage) said his proposal would allow the teaching of safe sex, but the curriculum would have to be “abstinence-centered,” emphasizing that abstinence is withholding from “any kind of sexual contact.”
Republican Gov. Bill Haslam has not commented about the family life proposal, but he has publicly stated he doesn’t think the “Don’t Say Gay” proposal is needed and that state lawmakers have more important things to work on.
“As I’ve said before, is not something I think is particularly helpful or needed right now,” Haslam told WPLN Radio. “Again, I think the state already has rules in place about what can be taught.”
This is Hensley’s second delay on the “Don’t Say Gay” bill — the measure was scheduled to be heard by the House Education Committee on Feb. 28, but was delayed while Hensley worked on its language.
The legislation was originally authored by Republican state Sen. Stacey Campfield — the original version of the bill would have prohibited public elementary and middle schools from providing “any instruction or material that discusses sexual orientation other than heterosexuality.”
The amended version, using the language “natural human reproduction science,” leaves those terms undefined.