Phillip Parker

Phillip Parker

UPDATE: A candlelight vigil will be held in memory of Phillip Parker on Thursday in Cookeville, Tennessee.

A staggering story of yet another Tennessee gay teenager committing suicide has hit the news, this time from the Smith County town of Gordonsville. Phillip Parker, a 14-year-old student at Gordonsville High School, died this week. His parents said that he was “constantly bulled for being gay.”

Phillip’s death is yet another tragic lost that could have been prevented. He could have been shielded by school administrators, protected by his teachers, and guarded by his friends. As it is, the school system in that county now has to engage in crisis management to deal with a high-profile suicide.

According to WSMV, his parents made “multiple” attempts to address the manner.

“He kept telling me he had a rock on his chest,” said Ruby Harris, Phillip’s grandmother. “He just wanted to take the rock off where he could breathe.”

Phillip’s family said they reported their concerns over their son’s bullying to Gordonsville High School on multiple occasions, but the bullying by a group of students just got worse.

Anyone who wonders why I’m so vocal about the “Don’t Say Gay” bill (which has brought our state plenty of well-deserved ridicule) or the “License to Bully” bill, both working their way through the state legislature this year, should remember these kids. They should remember Phillip Parker and Jacob Rogers, a Cheatham County teenager that also killed himself last month because of bullying.

Aapparently, protecting gay kids in our schools has become a “political agenda” that merits a bullheaded bill that’s making its way through the state legislature. The “License to Bully” bill (HB1229/SB0760) is particularly disturbing because it goes out of its way to prevent literature that is designed to be gay-positive:

This bill specifies that such task forces, programs, and other initiatives may not include materials or training that explicitly or implicitly promote a political agenda, make the characteristics of the victim the focus rather than the conduct of the person engaged in harassment, intimidation, or bullying, or teach or suggest that certain beliefs or viewpoints are discriminatory when an act or practice based on such belief or viewpoint is not a discriminatory practice under present human rights law.

First, it prohibits the inclusion of materials or training that “explicitly or implicitly” promotes a “political agenda.” This might sound perfectly fine to some, especially since the LGBT equality movement is very much of an agenda. I would disagree that it’s a “political” agenda any more than the Civil Rights movement was “political.”

No, these dead kids are not a “political agenda.” They are lives that were driven to the pit of despair just because they were — or perceived to be — gay. Stop the torture. Stop the belittling. Stop the bullying. Stop using religion as a reason to tear people down because you think their “behavior” is an “abomination.”

This is a human agenda. It’s an agenda to do what’s right. But seriously, what would be the harm?

For starters, it would prohibit literature that would help LGBT kids to learn to be comfortable in their own skin. GLSEN has a number of great, age-appropriate materials that are available; all of which would be banned. Their mission to promote understanding and respect in schools includes the popular “Day of Silence” which occurs every year in April.

The law would also prevent materials form the Trevor Project from being distributed. For those that don’t know, it is an organization that exists solely to counsel LGBT and questioning teens that may be having thoughts of suicide. Apparently, to some Tennessee legislators, the very survival and mental well-being of these kids is a “political agenda” that puts too much emphasis on the “characteristics of the victim.”

These. Kids. Are. Dying.

How many kids have to commit suicide before these bullheaded legislators realize that the REASON they’re being bullied is BECAUSE of their “characteristics?”

Then finally, there’s the last section of the above quote that should really send a chill down your spine:

…or teach or suggest that certain beliefs or viewpoints are discriminatory when an act or practice based on such belief or viewpoint is not a discriminatory practice under present human rights law.

That’s right. It would prevent any teacher, student, or principal from “teaching” or “suggesting” that an anti-gay viewpoint is discriminatory, because — guess what — sexual orientation is not a protected class in Tennessee.

“As such,” this logic might say. “Therefore, gays can’t be discriminated against. Because they can’t be discriminated against, then they really don’t get bullied. Too bad. They just need to toughen up.”

I’ll say it again: These. Kids. Are. Dying.

It’s time for us to stop dancing around the issue and put an end to the question and this outright anti-gay insanity. Add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the protected classes. Stop treating our LGBT neighbors with such vile contempt — legally — by denying basic protections and the freedom to go to school without getting beaten up, crushed down, or verbally torn apart just because they’re gay.

Tell your state congressmen and senators to put the “License to Bully” bill the trash heap where it belongs.