By now the Tennessee bill, which has been nicknamed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, is pretty famous. That’s not surprising because it has been introduced every year for at least seven years. Though the wording seems to differ each time it is introduced, the basic premise is always the same: teachers are prohibited from discussing “any sexuality other than heterosexuality” in grades K through 8. Each time it’s introduced the bill meets with both praise and contempt. Some say it would keep inappropriate topics away from innocent young children while others say it is blatant discrimination and censorship.
Last year’s version of the bill was never put to a vote by the General Assembly but one of its sponsored warned that it would be taken up again if it turned out that “alternative lifestyles” were being promoted in the school.
Perhaps the sponsor has found evidence of such “promotion” because the bill is back and it’s worse than before. Once again called the “Classroom Protection Act,” the 2013 version states:
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 for the intended student audience and, therefore, shall be prohibited.
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It also includes a new provision that allows school personnel to intervene if they fear that an individual student is:
“…engaging in, or may be at risk of engaging in, behavior injurious to the physical or mental health and well- being of the student or another person.”
Once the school intervenes, the bill says that:
“Parents or legal guardians of such students shall be notified as soon as practicable of the circumstances requiring intervention.”
While this provision is clearly subject to interpretation, many see this as code for forcing schools to “out” any kid they suspect of being gay to his or her parents. Though the bill’s lead sponsor, Republican Senator Stacey Campfield, has said the bill is not trying to single out anyone’s sexual identity, he has made so many outrageous and homophobic comments in the press in the past few weeks that it’s hard to think anything but the worst.
On January 31st he told USA Today that:
“Being gay is not a dangerous activity. The act of homosexuality is very dangerous to someone’s health and safety.”
On February 1st he called into TMZ and called LGBT advocates “the biggest bullies in the world” and said he wished the gay community would “…quit trying to ram it down everybody’s throats… and quit pushing it on everyone. Just leave us alone.”
When the TMZ host asked him why not teach young people how to protect themselves if they are going to engage in homosexual acts anyway, Campfield compared homosexuality to heroin use, saying:
“You know, you could say the same thing about kids who are shooting heroin. We need to show them the best ways to shoot up. No, we don’t. Why do we have to hypersexualize little children? Why can’t we just let little kids be little kids for a while?”
During that interview, Campfield also explained that HIV rates are so high in Africa because “they are really into sodomy” and that it is virtually impossible to get HIV during heterosexual sex. (Wow.)
And Huffington Post reports that using the handle The__Sen, Campfield replied to a commenter on the Knoxville News Sentinel’s website who opposed the bill’s suggestion that schools should contact parents by saying:
“Just so I have this straight, you want me to make it so if a school catches one 12-year-old boy providing unprotected sex in the bathroom to five other boys that activity would not be reported to the parents right?”
Such homophobic rants are not new for Senator Campfield. According to the Gay Star News he has in the past called homosexuality a “learned behavior” and compared it to bestiality. Worse, he justifies his suggestion that homosexuality is “dangerous” by saying that:
“… AIDS came from the homosexual community — it was one guy screwing a monkey, if I recall correctly, and then having sex with men. It was an airline pilot, if I recall.”
I suppose we can’t be surprised that someone with these beliefs keeps trying to get a “Don’t Say Gay” law passed in his home state. I continue to be surprised, however, that someone with these beliefs keeps getting elected.