Tennessee Senate passes “Don’t Say Gay” Bill

Not an Onion headline, people.

Via Unicorn Booty, we find that a proposed bill that would make it illegal to use the word “gay” or “homosexuality” or discuss topics about being gay in Tennessee schools passed the Senate yesterday. Via Think Progress:

The bill would prohibit teachers from discussing of any sexuality except heterosexuality in grades K-8,” even with students who may be gay or have gay family,” according to Ben Byers of the Tennessee Equality Council (TEP). The committee amended the bill to require the Board of Education to study whether homosexuality is actually being taught in schools, but it will still institute a ban in February of next year. Sen. Stacey Campfield (R) is passionate about this legislation, which he previously sponsored unsuccessfully in the state House for six years. In 2009, Campfield explained that he’s not homophobic; it’s just that the issue is “complex.”

Yeah, maybe “complex” like his homophobic complexities are impinging a seriously atrocious bill on the teachers and students of his state. This is just horrifying.

h/t to reader Aly.

Join the Conversation

  • http://feministing.com/members/blueeyes90/ blueeyes90

    The only time people shouldn’t use the word “gay” is when they use it to say something’s bad. This bill is just ridiculous.

  • http://cabaretic.blogspot.com nazza

    The Right Wing fringe will always, unfortunately, elect a few candidates to Deep South state legislatures. This guy represents Knoxville, which aside from being the home of University of Tennessee, is also an extremely conservative area of the state. Similar candidates have been elected from Alabama as well.

    Usually, it’s one lone eagle pushing this legislation, which then goes down in defeat. I hope the same goes for here, too. Alabama had a legislator who wanted to remove all books from libraries written by LGBT authors. Which is comical. Once you did that, I doubt you’d have much left.

  • davenj

    Two things:

    1. A Tennessee state senate PANEL voted to put the bill before the entire state senate. The bill has yet to pass.

    2. Gravity is complicated, too. I still want my children to learn about it before the ninth grade. This bill basically suggests that the state’s children are stupid.

  • http://feministing.com/members/toongrrl/ Jessica “Jess” Victoria Carillo

    Is this for real? Looks like there are brain-eating spores out

  • http://feministing.com/members/kaelin/ Matt

    It’s hard to see same-sex relationships as more complex than mixed-sex relationships (there are ways each is more messy than the other). For the sake of balance, the only fair solution would be to ban all (romantic) relationship discussion.

    It’s just an idea.

  • http://feministing.com/members/linswin23/ Lindsay

    I am a student teacher right now trying to find teaching jobs–eduation is my passion, needless to say.

    This really bothers me. I’m from California, so if this bill passes it won’t affect me, but just putting myself in the shoes of progressive thinking teachers in TN–I feel for them.

    What if one of their students comes to them in confidence and comes out? What if that student shares with them that they can’t talk to anyone about it, not even their family? Is that TN teacher supposed to just ignore their student? No. Are they supposed to tell them that they can’t talk about that with them? How would you look a student in the eye and tell them that? How would that make the student feel?

    In order to learn, students must feel safe, welcome, and that they are accepted in the classroom. If this bill passes and basically tells LGBT students that they aren’t cared for and that their sexuality is “wrong” how can educators and legislators expect the students to perform their best not only in the classroom, but on state testing that is shoved so much in educators and students’ faces by the state?

    Instead of trying to pass bills such as these, legislators who deal with education need to pull their heads out of their asses and look at things that matter such as: funding for schools, improving school nutrition, providing students with the best curriculum their is, and paying hardworking teachers that actually give a fuck.

  • http://feministing.com/members/uclabodyimage/ uclabodyimage

    omg wtf???? There is really nothing else to say.

  • http://feministing.com/members/jhildebrandt/ jason

    My letter to the Senator sponsoring this legislation:

    I’m writing from Manitoba, Canada. I read about your support of legislation that would make it illegal to discuss homosexuality in elementary school classrooms.

    I don’t know what I can say to encourage you to hear me.

    Perhaps you might be interested in a anecdote on learning I’ve taken to heart.

    Its common knowledge that Asian school children perform better on measures of mathematical aptitude than north american students. Many of us ascribe this to more focused education, a stronger Asian work ethic, more emphasis placed on core subjects in Asian schools, etc. Recently some scholars have even tried to attribute it to genetic differences between Asians and Caucasians.

    However, I’ve heard a different explanation. Here in the west we attribute performance to IQ. We assume that children who perform better are more intelligent. Once reinforced, this assumption becomes self-fulfilling and students who overachieve are assumed to be doing so naturally.

    In Japan in particular, apparently a different assumption exists. Students are told that what they are studying is learnable. If they continue to work at it, everything will come with time. There are fewer assumptions about the role of intelligence and a greater emphasis is placed upon developing the intellectual capacity that all students possess.

    You can see how this anecdote is relevant to many of the issues confronting educational policy makers, teachers, parents, students, social stakeholders, etc here in North America. Too often we make assumptions about what our young people are capable of. We challenge and stifle their resilience because through our actions we tell them they aren’t smart enough, strong enough, knowledgeable enough. We tell them they aren’t old enough or just ‘enough’ to consider complicated issues of right and wrong.

    I don’t want to debate morality. Unfortunately both the Canadian and American political communities are far too divided to for us to effectively hear one another.

    I do want to say, however, that a school is a place where children learn, and what they learn isn’t always directly attributable to what they’re taught. When you send the message that certain topics are too ‘complicated’ or ‘nuanced’, what students may hear is that they’re not smart enough or just ‘enough’ to play a central role in their own learning\development.

    I remember being in junior high school (in my town grades 6,7,8). We discussed racism, homosexuality, sexuality, sex, flat chests, big breasts, etc. We had to reach conclusions about most of these subjects without guidance because we had no guides. We weren’t taught to be authentic about our desires, or careful in our treatment of one another, and so we turned to stereotypes and hurtful language to reinforce our positions within our carefully constructed social hierarchies. Without guidance we were never led to believe that we could think about these issues and actually become thoughtful contributing members within our emerging adolescent communities.

    Junior high was a scary time, made scarier by our lack of direction, and our self-perpetuating and institutionally supported assumptions of just how little we were capable of.

    Can you identify with what I’m saying? Do you remember how confusing those years were? Do you remember wanting to be authentic and real, but instead hiding any number of facets of yourself because your complicated identity didn’t fit within tolerable parameters?

    Full disclosure. I’m not gay and I wasn’t questioning my sexuality in Junior high. I was shy. I had parents who told me how to behave and what to believe. Unfortunately, what they taught me conflicted with much of what my classmates were learning from their families. My current self wishes my past self had had a teacher willing to discuss and promote tolerance and mutual respect. Without appropriate guidance my classmates and myself hurt each other very badly.

    I guess I’m kind of getting carried away. I just wish things had been so different back then.

    I get scared sometimes, when I think about how loud and yet silent everything is becoming. On both the right and the left of the political spectrum, the rhetoric is deafening. Please, I don’t believe that we need more laws to keep us from speaking to one another.

    Please don’t play a role in teaching children that it appropriate to ban discussion.

    Its ironic, a child learn’s in her infancy the joys of talking and self-expression, lessons which she will spend the rest her life unlearning.


    Jason Hildebrandt

  • http://feministing.com/members/vanillaperv/ Ericka Lozada

    If we don’t talk about “complex” things in school, does that mean we stop teaching algebra or chemistry? Proposals like this law are just another example of the dumbing down of the United States.

  • http://feministing.com/members/herberks/ Rebecca

    gay, uterus, what next? What is going on down there in the States?

  • http://feministing.com/members/plaid/ Arbitrary

    Does this mean that K-8 students who use gay as a pejorative will be dealt with more harshly than they otherwise would be? Or will teachers have to pretend that their students don’t use these words (as pejorative or real discussion) and don’t discuss these issues?

    I can’t figure out how this law would work in real life. And I somehow doubt that the folks who’ll have to implement this law are going to know either. I wonder what the disconnect between the Senate and the schools and the courts are going to be.

    You’re heartbreaking, Tennessee.