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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 4, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 18
Tennessee 'Don't Say Gay' bill dies
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Tennessee 'Don't Say Gay' bill dies

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

A proposed Tennessee law that would have banned any discussion of sexual orientation in grades K-8 died when the legislature adjourned May 1 without voting on the measure.

Republican State Rep. Joey Hensley Announced on April 29 that he would not bring the bill up for a floor vote in the House. It passed the Tennessee Senate last year.

Hensley said he had assurances from officials of the Department of Education and the state Board of Education that they would send a letter to all Tennessee schools 'telling them they cannot teach this subject in grades kindergarten through eight.'

'With that assurance and the opposition of some people who didn't want to vote on it, I've decided simply not to bring it up,' Hensley said.

Hensley had previously been forced to amend the language in his bill in an attempt to make it more palatable to fellow legislators.

The original bill said, 'No public elementary or middle school shall provide any instruction or material that discusses sexual orientation other than heterosexuality.'

An amended version was passed out of the Tennessee House Education Committee by a narrow 8-7 vote.

That version said that 'classroom instruction, course materials or other informational resources that are inconsistent with natural human reproduction shall be classified as inappropriate for the intended student audience and, therefore, shall be prohibited.'

In spite of the amendment, the bill continued to be controversial, and the controversy was only intensified by the hateful language used by the measure's supporters.

Last month, Republican State Rep. Dwight Scharnhorst, one of the bill's co-sponsors, enraged opponents when he compared homosexuality to bestiality while speaking in favor of the bill.

'There is no need to talk about Billy wanting to marry a goat,' he said.

The ACLU, which had led opposition to the bill, concluded that 'this bill is so tainted by its original wording and intent to ban any discussion of sexual orientation that its passage will still send the wrong message to schoolchildren: that a particular group of people are not worthy of recognition or even mention in their day-to-day lives.'

The Missouri state legislature is considering even more restrictive legislation. That bill would ban discussion of sexual orientation in all K-12 public schools and also in school-sponsored extracurricular activities.

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