On Friday the Tennessee Senate passed a controversial bill that would ban mention of homosexuality in K through 8 schools. The bill, now known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, passed in a 20 to 10 vote.
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.”
Added to SB49 was an amendment that would restrict the legislation’s scope to only ban discussion of homosexuality in prepared materials and instruction.
Given that the Tennessee Board of Education has repeatedly said this legislation isn’t needed because there is already a so-called family orientated curriculum in place that makes no mention of homosexuality,
Democratic lawmakers opposed to the bill have said they can see no reason in passing the bill, with Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga, reportedly saying: “We have said we should not have age inappropriate material in K through 8. What we’re doing here is passing something just to pass it.”
The legislation has caused a great deal of controversy, with critics saying the bill is anti-gay in nature. Campfield once likened homosexuality to bestiality, something critics say shows the animus behind the bill.
Sen. Campfield, who as a Representative tried unsuccessfully to pass the bill in the House over the previous 6 sessions, has denied the legislation is anti-gay, saying it is designed to stop people pushing their various “agendas” in schools and that it is necessary so that “families [can] handle that issue.”
The bill must now go before the House where it has yet to move out of committee. It seems likely the bill will receive no further attention this year however, as Tennessee State Representative Bill Dunn has gone on record saying that he will hold off pushing the legislation until 2012.