Tennessee’s governor Bill Haslam has said that a controversial bill that would prevent mention of homosexuality in Tennessee schools, dubbed the Don’t Say Gay bill, has stalled and isn’t going to pass.
Speaking to the The City Paper in an interview published Sunday, Haslam complained about the amount of media attention the bill got while other more positive education stories received little to no press, adding that while the bill might be “real sexy” it is going nowhere:
The governor complained that the media paid little attention to the appointment of the first superintendent of the Tennessee’s Achievement Student District, an attempt to turn around the state’s lowest-performing schools. At the same time, reporters closely watched the “Don’t Say Gay” bill to ban the mention of homosexuality before the ninth grade in Tennessee’s public schools.
“The ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill didn’t pass and probably is never going to pass. At the same time, we hired Chris Barbic to run the Achievement School District, which is a huge deal. That got this much attention,” the governor said, holding his fingers an inch apart. “‘Don’t Say Gay’ got 100 articles. Well, something’s wrong with that picture.
“‘Don’t Say Gay’ is real sexy and yada yada yada. It’s not going anywhere.’”
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.”
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.
Even though the Tennessee board of education has repeatedly said that such legislation isn’t necessary due to the sate’s “family orientated” curriculum, the Tennessee House was expected to follow the Senate’s lead and take up the legislation. However, a vote never materialized. Legislator Bill Dunn said they would perhaps visit the legislation in 2012, but since then talk of the bill has been quiet.
Senator Stacey Campfield, who unsuccessfully tried to pass the legislation several times while a state representative, has remained defiant that this is not the end for his bill, telling Knoxville CW affiliate WATE:
“I disagree with the governor saying that it is not going to pass. Families across the state believe this is something that should be discussed with young children in the home, not with some radical in the classroom.”
Campfield once likened homosexuality to bestiality, something critics say shows the animus behind the bill. This is, however, 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.”
Several campaigns have formed around combating the Don’t Say Gay bill, including one by Star Trek actor George Takei.