Don’t Say Gay. Seriously.

In 2011, Tennessee State Sen. Stacey Campfield (R) introduced Senate Bill 49, which would have made it illegal for teachers to mention or discuss anything not in line with heterosexual behavior in grades pre-K-8. Nicknamed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, the preposterous legislation thankfully was dropped from consideration. After much debate, lawmakers in Tennessee finally realized that schools didn’t teach sex ed until after 8th grade, so instead of pushing the bill they decided to require officials from the Department of Education and the State Board of Education to send a letter to educators requiring them not to speak about homosexuality in any setting.

Unfortunately the Don’t Say Gay bill was reintroduced last month–this time with a vengeance. Now called “The Classroom Protection Act”, SB 234–again authored and introduced by Senator Campfield–has been updated with new stipulations, and the “Don’t Say Gay” part seems to have been rewritten to appear less homophobic. It now reads:

At grade levels pre-K through eight (pre-K-8), any such classroom instruction, course materials or other informational resources that are inconsistent with natural human reproduction shall be classified as inappropriate.

One new stipulation will require teachers to inform parents if their children have shown any signs of identifying as, or questioning if they may be, lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Consistent with this line of thinking, the bill also contains a “good faith” stipulation that requires teachers to only address LGBT issues with condemnation–and only when a student asks about said “unnatural” sexual identities/activities.

In regard to the initial Don’t Say Gay bill, Campfield explained that it was not meant to be homophobic, but rather a protective measure  to “save” children from being sexualized. Campfield has also stated that homosexuality is dangerous due to the possible spread of HIV–a disease, he asserts, that is “virtually impossible to contract through heterosexual sex.” He also apparently sees himself as the authority on the history of HIV, explaining that the disease developed from “one guy screwing a monkey, if I recall correctly, and then having sex with men. It was an airline pilot, if I recall.” He even compared homosexuality to shooting heroin in a recent interview with TMZ earlier this month.

You can’t make these things up.

If this law goes into effect, it could have grim consequences for  children who may be questioning their identity and are in need of acceptance and support from the adults they trust most. Around 40 percent of homeless youth are LGBT, often due to rejection from their families. An overwhelming 92 percent of LGBT youth report hearing negative messages about being LGBT, mostly through school, the Internet and their peers. LGBT youth are twice as likely to be physically assaulted as their non-LGBT peers, and LGBT youth are shown to have much higher levels of depression and suicide attempts compared to their non-LGBT peers.

Unfortunately, the bill is currently slated to advance to the full Tennessee Senate for further consideration.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons