Tennessee Bill Banning Discussion of Homosexuality in Schools Back Again

A piece of legislation dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill has been introduced into the Tennessee General Assembly once again. The bill’s aim is to prevent educators teaching about or discussing homosexuality in elementary and middle schools.

Senate Bill 49 and 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 legislation has won praise from some groups, however pro-gay groups have said that the bill could be dangerous.

From Volunteertv.com:

Those who support the bill say it’s about having age appropriate curriculum.

“You’re looking at legislation that is going to make sure that when you are talking about sexuality with students that it is age appropriate,” said Matthew Parsons, a father of seven children and founder of the group “Something Better.”

He says he’s in favor of the proposed bill that avoids talking about homosexuality to kids so young.

“If we’re talking about homosexuality, we are talking about specific acts that are going to be unhealthy for anybody to engage in outside of marriage.


At least one group says that’s anti-gay – and calls it the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

“The Don’t Say Gay bill raises all kinds of issues about anti-gay bias, free speech and government overreach,” said Ben Byers with the Tennessee Equality Project.


“It limits what teachers and students are able to discuss in the classroom,” Byers said. “It means they can’t talk about gay issues or sexuality even with students who may be gay or have gay family.”

This legislation is nothing new.

Campfield introduced a “Don’t Say Gay” bill in 2009 as a member of the Tennessee House but it was not advanced. The same legislation was also introduced and allowed to expire in 2010.

The Tennessee Board of Education, which has been consulted on the bill, has repeatedly said that there is absolutely no need for this legislation, yet Mr. Campfield feels that the bill deserves another chance.

In 2009, Campfield said that sexuality is a “complex issue” that he didn’t want confusing Tennessee children “that are already in a difficult part of life.” 

He said, “It doesn’t say we are going to preach against it. We are not going to preach for it,” to which he added that he did not think that the bill was in the slightest bit homophobic. “Homophobic means you’re afraid of something [...] but teaching transgenderism to middle school students [...] I don’t think that’s the road we should go down. I think that’s what parents should be doing.”

What’s interesting, other than Mr. Campfield clearly not understanding that being transgender is nothing to do with sexuality, is that Campfield is still pretending that this bill is neutral, ignoring of course that the bill will only allow teachers to talk about heterosexuality which is a heteronormative bias right out of the gate.  

Of course children should be given age-appropriate information — no one would argue against that — but blanket characterizing anything that is not heterosexual in content as inappropriate is very clearly anti-gay. It also smacks of hypocrisy because it is a blatant attempt at enforcing a narrow agenda through government overreach where it would seem no actual problem even exists. 

Perhaps what worries most about this bill is the impact it could have on combating bullying with regards to the perceived or actual sexual orientation or gender identity of students.

It could become virtually impossible for schools to adequately address issues surrounding anti-LGBT bullying if they are encumbered to the extent that they can not discuss anything other than heterosexuality.

While, yes, they may be able to challenge bullying behavior itself, they will not be able to address the underlying cause of that bullying, most likely meaning that the issue will persist.

I would also question whether schools under this policy would be able to give adequate support to victims of such bullying who, whether LGBT or not, will have a need to talk about these issues in order to deal with the harassment they have faced.

It remains to be seen whether this legislation will meet with more success than it has in the past. Currently, the bills have been referred to the General Assembly’s subcommittees on education.

For more information on this and other LGBT-related issues in Tennessee, visit the Tennessee Equality Project.

Photo used under the Creative Commons Attribution License, with thanks to McDowell-Craig.


Mrs B.
Mrs B6 years ago

School is not an appropriate place for sexual discussions of any kind. Parents are and should be responsible for explaining and educating their own children about sexual matters and I wouldn't trust anyone else to do that. It is a personal and private topic that has a time and place. At least, it did, before America became oversexed and brainwashed into believing that it is socially acceptable to talk openly about sex, which, by the way, is supposed to be something sacred. It is not something to be made a show of, like some Broadway musical...but that is exactly what has happened. It is everywhere you look and is now being accepted as something normal, unfortunately.

Hope Holtum
Hope Holtum6 years ago

if they can't talk about homosexuality then they shouldn't be allowed to talk about heterosexuality either.

A Marina Fournier

Jerry H. says, on Mar 1, 2011 7:47 PM, that:
The sins theses passages are referring to are idolatry, Greek temple sex worship, prostitution, pederasty with teen boys, and rape, not homosexuality or two loving consenting adults.

So right. And those who talk about "traditional marriage" fail to say which decade/century or culture that "traditional" is from. Obligations, duties, rights (and lack thereof), and responsibilities vary greatly by time and by culture.

The ranters only continue to show their ignorance of the subjects on which they speak.

Patsy Vaughn
Pat V6 years ago

Tennessee.... must you continue forever, dumbing down the people? Knowledge hurts no one and should, IF "handled" right, opens minds that ALL Americans have RIGHTS in this country to be who we are, without prejudice. (Counting on untrained, intimidated parents to teach at home is just too pathetic..) and Hiding and/or ignoring anything....only leaves kids thinking "it" must be shameful or illegal or immoral or ...... ! Too soon these same kids grow up physically but not mentally or emotionallybecause of lack of awareness. If it weren't that ignorance IS harmful, I'd just ignore the ignorance... that continues on and on in Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisianna and even Georgia. I love the South, but its closed mindedness is such a danger...

Yvonne S.
Yvonne S6 years ago

If they want to discuss homosexuality they should be allowed to.

Jerry H.
Jerry Hernandez6 years ago

This was taken from another poster that shows why we need to legalize gay marriage. If you don't feel for this person after reading it, you simply aren't human.

"I am not sure what our President thinks of this dicission but coming from a poor family and knowing what discrimination is all about I would assume he would not care if "Gays" have equal rights. The whole reason why they are asking for rights to be considered married is from the same reason why I would be for it. My own life partner commited suicide in our home with a gun to his heart. After a 28 year union I was deprived to even go his funeral. We had two plots next to each other. But because we did not have a marriage cirtificate "(Legal Document)" of our union his mother had him cremated and his ashes taken back to Missouri where we came from. That is only one example how painful it is. His suicide tramatized me so much and her disregard for my feelings only added to my heartach. That happened on March 21 of 2007 and I still cannot type this without crying for the trauma I have to endure each day. Oh did I mention I am in an electric wheelchair for life? Yes I am and it is very diffacult to find another mate when you are 58 and in a wheelchair. "

Jerry H.
Jerry Hernandez6 years ago

The National Library of Medicine pubs confirm that sexual orientation is natural, biologically induced in the first trimester of pregnancy, morally neutral, immutable, neither contagious nor learned, bearing no relation to an individuals ability to form deep and lasting relationships, to parent children, to work or to contribute to society.

From the American Psychological Association: homosexuality is normal; homosexual relationships are normal.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, American Psychological Association and American Psychiatric Association have endorsed civil marriage for same-sex couples because marriage strengthens mental and physical health and longevity of couples, and provides greater legal and financial security for children, parents and seniors.

America's premier child/mental health associations endorse marriage equality.

Jerry H.
Jerry Hernandez6 years ago

To those of you using the Bible as a weapon against homosexuality, you are wrong. Homosexuality is not a sin. The Bible is constantly being taken out of context to support anti-gay views. Scholars who have studied the Bible in context of the times and in relation to other passages have shown those passages (Leviticus, Corinthians, Romans, etc) have nothing to do with homosexuality. These passages often cherry-picked while ignoring the rest of the Bible. The sins theses passages are referring to are idolatry, Greek temple sex worship, prostitution, pederasty with teen boys, and rape, not homosexuality or two loving consenting adults.


Jerry H.
Jerry Hernandez6 years ago

For those of you claiming homosexuality is a "lifestyle", that is a false and ignorant statement. Homosexuality is not a choice. Just like you don't choose the color of your skin, you cannot choose whom you are sexually attracted to. If you can, sorry, but you are not heterosexual, you are bi-sexual. Virtually all major psychological and medical experts agree that sexual orientation is NOT a choice. Most gay people will tell you its not a choice. Common sense will tell you its not a choice. While science is relatively new to studying homosexuality, studies tend to indicate that its biological.

Gay, Straight Men's Brain Responses Differ

There is overwhelming scientific evidence that homosexuality is not a choice. Sexual orientation is generally a biological trait that is determined pre-natally, although there is no one certain thing that explains all of the cases. "Nurture" may have some effect, but for the most part it is biological.

Tonya S.
Tonya R6 years ago

"So if I close my eyes and ears really tight for long enough then all the gays will go away" mentality is strong over there!
Those GOP's should just come out of the closet already and stop torturing everyone else for their own issues.