Dennis Shepard, the father of Matthew Shepard, spoke out last week against Tennessee’s proposed “Don’t Say Gay” bill that would ban mention of sexuality in classrooms except to affirm so-called traditional marriage.
Dennis Shephard, at a Nashville press conference last week, said that the legislation “creates a policy [that says], ‘it’s open season’” on LGBT kids and leaves students incredibly vulnerable to discrimination.
You can watch the Tennessee Equality Project’s video of Dennis Shepard’s speech below, in which Shepard calls for inclusive state hate crimes legislation and better anti-bullying laws:
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, is 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.
Recently, Tennessee lawmakers have drawn considerable attention for their perceived onslaught on LGBT rights.
The introduction of a transphobic bill earlier this month has been widely slammed for its transparently hostile nature. The bill would ban trans people from using the dressing room or bathroom facilities that comport with their gender identity rather than their birth assigned sex, and would require ID checks to use such facilities in a state where trans people cannot amend their ID documents to change their gender..
To compound issues over the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, the state is also currently considering a bill to exempt from bullying legislation any “religiously motivated” speech. Critics have called this a license to bully in the name of religion.