Matthew Shepard’s Father Takes On Don’t Say Gay Bill


Dennis Shepard, the father of Matthew Shepard, spoke out last week against Tennessee’s proposed “Don’t Say Gay” bill that would ban mention of sexuality in classrooms except to affirm so-called traditional marriage.

Dennis Shephard, at a Nashville press conference last week, said that the legislation “creates a policy [that says], ‘it’s open season’” on LGBT kids and leaves students incredibly vulnerable to discrimination.

You can watch the Tennessee Equality Project’s video of Dennis Shepard’s speech below, in which Shepard calls for inclusive state hate crimes legislation and better anti-bullying laws:

Senate Bill 49 and counterpart measure House Bill 229 sponsored by state Senator Stacey Campfield and (formerly sponsored) by Representative Bill Dunn respectively, both Republicans from Knoxville, is designed to prohibit “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. However, added to SB49 was an amendment that would restrict the legislation’s scope to only ban discussion of homosexuality in prepared materials and instruction, though critics point out that this doesn’t eliminate the problem of effectively banning mention of LGBT identity.

Recently, Tennessee lawmakers have drawn considerable attention for their perceived onslaught on LGBT rights.

The introduction of a transphobic bill earlier this month has been widely slammed for its transparently hostile nature. The bill would ban trans people from using the dressing room or bathroom facilities that comport with their gender identity rather than their birth assigned sex, and would require ID checks to use such facilities in a state where trans people cannot amend their ID documents to change their gender..

To compound issues over the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, the state is also currently considering a bill to exempt from bullying legislation any “religiously motivated” speech. Critics have called this a license to bully in the name of religion.


Related Reading:

Tennessee Senate Okays ‘Don’t Say Gay’ in School Bill

TN ‘Don’t Say Gay’ in Schools Bill Unlikely To Get House Vote Before 2012

Tennesseans Go to Court Over State Ban on Gay Nondiscrimination Ordinance

Image used under the Creative Commons Attribution License with thanks to JenLight.


Annmari Lundin
Annmari Lundin6 years ago

Do they really think that not speaking about LGBT in school will somehow erase us? I grew up when the only things said about us were negative and a mandatory prison sentence of four years were handed down if one in a relationship were under 18 and the government actually promoted and funded "change" therapy. I survived all this and so will the next generation, but why not make it easier for the young LGBT? Why let them also suffer prejudice and bullying? We now live in 2012 and have all the necessary means to make life easier for everyone. Let's do that instead of constantly have politicians dividing people into more and less worthy of protection!

Norma V.
Norma Villarreal6 years ago

Matthew Shepard lives on through the work of his parents....keep it up!

Mara C.
Past Member 6 years ago

Keep fighting Mr. Shepard. Matthew would be proud of you!

laura r.
laura r6 years ago

as a parent of a gay I have confronted ignorance and hatred at every opportunity. I agonized over Matthew's terrible murder for fear thamt
all of my GlBTG family and friends would suffer the same treatment.

Religion is worthless when it teaches how to hate!!

Joe R.
Joe R6 years ago

Some really great comments here! Both Dennis and Judy Shepard are inspirational. I've added them to my Care2 page.

pam w.
pam w6 years ago

It's going to take a major shift in thinking....religion has MUCH too powerful a hold on politics in the States.

That has to change!

Laws should be enacted based on logic, fairness and lack of prejudice against ANY group of citizens.

Miranda Lyon
Miranda Lyon6 years ago

How long are the rational citizens of the United States going to continue to put up with this sort of tripe?

Phyllis B.
Jennifer Ward6 years ago

Seven billion and rising- there are worries that the food supply will run out soon.

There will be no habitat for wildlife and biodiversity will be extinct.

If you ask me, for the sake of the planet, homosexuality should be encouraged, not condemned.

Jane H.
Jane H6 years ago

he is such a good father--I wish more fathers of GLBT people would speak out

pam w.
pam w6 years ago

It's because they're willing to respond to pressure from the "religious right"....they offer power and the politicians suck up to them.