The Nashville metro council passed a resolution this week honoring a group of students who protested the state’s proposed “Don’t Say Gay” bill which would block mention of homosexuality in years K-8.
In discussion the council split over whether the resolution amounted to a vote in support of gay rights, or just commended students for being civically engaged; ultimately 22 members voted to honor the group. But that question also divided some of the students who took part in the protests.
Hannah Deegan graduated this spring from the University School of Nashville. She says anyone who made the effort to get involved merits recognition, regardless of politics.
“I missed my last day of high school, you know? We really gave it our all. And if there were students doing the same thing on the other side, I think they would deserve it too.”
But Ben Kurland, a classmate of Deegan’s who also took part in the protests, argues the resolution wasn’t just a celebration of democracy, but a comment against “Don’t Say Gay.”
“Clearly it’s a politically motivated statement they’re making here. It’s not really about the democracy of the thing. And I think the democracy of the thing is great; I’m not complaining. I’m just saying it’s a cover story for what they’re trying to do.”
News Channel 5 notes that James Holin, the sponsor of the “non-binding memorializing resolution,” had tried once before to pass the measure. Those that abstained from Tuesday’s vote, including council member Jim Gotto, say the resolution sets a bad precedent.
Senate Bill 49 and counterpart measure House Bill 229 sponsored by state Senator Stacey Campfield and Representative Bill Dunn respectively, both Republicans from Knoxville, prohibits “the teaching of or furnishing of materials on human sexuality other than heterosexuality in public school grades K-8.” As such, it has been dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
The Senate passed the bill in a 20 to 10 vote in May. Added to SB49 was an amendment that would restrict the legislation’s scope to only ban discussion of homosexuality in prepared materials and instruction
The House has yet to take up the legislation and Tennessee’s governor Bill Haslam has said that the controversial bill has stalled and isn’t going to pass. Campfield denies this claim but it does appear the bill’s forward momentum has dissipated.
The Nashville council also passed a measure Tuesday calling on the council’s legal department to issue an opinion on a lawsuit regarding a state law that overturned the metro council’s LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance. The non-binding resolution asks the department to file a friend-of-the-court brief arguing in favor of those challenging the state law.