The infamous “Don’t Say Gay” (HB0229) bill cleared the Tennessee House Education Subcommittee yesterday after a voice vote. The bill was first championed by confirmed bachelor State Senator Stacey Campfield, who spent more than six years trying to get similar bills through the state legislature.
Campfield gained further notoriety when he embarrassed himself with bogus statistics while being interviewed by Sirius OutQ radio show host Michelangelo Signorile. He was also gloriously thrown out on his ass by a restauranteur in Knoxville.
How I wish I could have seen that.
The bill has garnered national criticism from bloggers, comedians, actors, and politicians alike. George Takei, famous for his role as Hikaru Sulu in Star Trek, offered the “use of his name” for the cause. “Instead of gay pride parades, let’s call them Takei pride parades,” or during the Christmas season, sing, “don we now our Takei apparel.”
Opponents to the bill filled the room with a sea of purple shirts.
The Tennessean reported on the subcommittee meeting (hat tip, Towleroad):
The House Education subcommittee approved the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill on a voice vote Wednesday, renewing a debate that roiled the legislature last spring over whether elementary and middle schools should be allowed to initiate discussions about homosexuality.
The panel accepted the version of the bill that passed the state Senate late in last year’s session.
Opponents say it will not curb talk about homosexuality among grade school kids but will send the signal that it should be stigmatized. But several lawmakers argued that it would protect parents’ right to educate their children about their beliefs on their own terms.
The House sponsor of the bill is Rep Joey Hensley, who obviously cares more about keeping gays in their place than actually helping school curriculum or, you know, getting jobs in Tennessee. The fact that this bill was placed on the agenda so early in the year should be a huge wake up call to everyone in the state. GOP priority has never been about jobs. It’s about pushing back every bit of progress they possibly can.
Jonathan Cole, President of the Tennessee Equality Project, reported on the day’s events.
Despite warnings of the message such a bill sends to students in Tennessee public schools, the subcommittee voted to silence a teacher’s ability to have age-appropriate discussions with K-8 students when that discussion falls outside “natural human reproduction science.” Even in its amended form, HB0229 and SB0049 marginalizes lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning students or their families.
During the hearing, Rep. Bill Dunn (R-Knoxville) stated the amended version of the bill is in line with current curriculum and is consistent with what is already written in Title 49 of the Tennessee Code Annotated. If that is the case, then why would anyone advance this divisive legislation?
Rep. Craig Fitzhugh (D-Ripley) said it best: this bill does not improve education and is a solution in search of a problem. It is unnecessary and has the potential to do harm.
Joe Pitts, who represents Clarksville’s district 67, has pledged to oppose the bill. Be sure to thank him for doing the right thing.