Tennessee lawmakers were expected to take up the now infamous Don’t Say Gay bill on Tuesday, but reports say they have put off considering the legislation until the end of the session with more lawmakers now favoring an update of the state’s abstinence-only sex education law instead.
The sponsors of the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill agreed Tuesday to put off debating the measure until the end of the legislative session, a procedural move that usually signals they do not intend to pursue it. Backers said they would instead shift their focus to an abstinence education measure that is favored by social conservatives.
Sponsors had been under pressure to amend the original bill, which would have banned any teaching about sexuality apart from “natural human reproduction” before eighth grade. The measure was meant to keep schools and teachers from initiating discussions about gays and lesbians, but even its backers conceded Tuesday that it might have brought unintended consequences.
“We found out there really is not sex education curriculum in K-8 right now,” said state Rep. Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville, the bill’s original sponsor.
This comes after Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam again told reporters that lawmakers in his own party should set aside the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill in order to focus on more pressing issues.
Haslam says heís also talked a few times with Hohenwald Representative Joey Hensley, the proposalís sponsor.
HASLAM: “He knows and understands that, as I’ve said before, is not something I think is particularly helpful or needed right now. Again, I think the state already has rules in place about what can be taught.”
However, Hensley is reported to still be keen on pressing ahead with the legislation, though reports suggest he would still like to tweak the bill further.
This is because the amended version of Senator Stacey Campfield’s original legislation has been so altered that there is now a concern that it could actually allow for the teaching of sex education in K-8, something current law in the state doesn’t allow.
The legislation would originally have banned all mention of sexuality in K-8. The amended bill as passed by the Senate aims to reduce that reach, confining teachers to talking about sexuality only in terms of†”natural human reproduction science.”
However, the bill has offered no†explanation†of what that should mean. Does it, for instance, ban mention of IVF treatment? And does it effectively allow for sex education for K-8 students?
This is something that conservative Tennessee lawmakers are keen to avoid and what does seem clear is that, the more the bill is amended to try and make it palatable, the more the legislation seems to divide rather than unify.
As for Republican Governor Haslam, this is now the third time he has spoken out to remind lawmakers they should be concentrating on issues like the economy.