Tennessee’s controversial ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, that would ban mention of homosexuality in schools, is to be taken up by a House subcommittee on Wednesday.
KnoxNews reports that state Rep. Bill Dunn (R-Knoxville) said on Tuesday that he had turned the legislation over to state Rep. Joey Hensley (R-Hohenwald), and that he had done so “for strategic reasons.”
Now the bill has a new sponsor, state Rep. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald, who says he stepped in because he believes the bill has the support to pass.
“Rep. Dunn is carrying some other very important education legislation for the governor,” Hensley said. “We didn’t want people in the media and other people to get it mixed up … so we felt like it would be easier for me to run it.”
Dunn reportedly believes that the bill, in its modified form, will pass and has said that he certainly intends to vote for it.
Senate Bill 49 and counterpart measure House Bill 229 sponsored by state Senator Stacey Campfield and (formerly sponsored) by Representative Bill Dunn respectively, both Republicans from Knoxville, was designed to prohibit “the teaching of or furnishing of materials on human sexuality other than heterosexuality in public school grades K-8.”
The Senate passed the bill in a 20 to 10 vote in May. However, added to SB49 was an amendment that would restrict the legislation’s scope to only ban discussion of homosexuality in prepared materials and instruction, though critics point out that this doesn’t eliminate the problem of effectively banning mention of LGBT identity.
Even though the Tennessee board of education has repeatedly said that such legislation isn’t necessary due to the sate’s existing “family orientated” curriculum which places an emphasis on the “traditional” family unit, Campfield and Dunn have consistently advocated for the change.
Campfield once likened homosexuality to bestiality, something critics say shows the animus behind the bill. However, this is a charge that Campfield has denied, saying the legislation is designed to stop “radical” teachers from pushing their various “agendas” in schools, and that it is necessary so that “families [can] handle that issue.”
UPDATE: Joey Hensley has delayed plans on the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill and it did not get a committee hearing yesterday. Find out more here.