Shhhh…Don’t Say “Gay”

It seems that many people don’t give Tennessee State Senator Stacey Campfield due credit for his subtle political shrewdness. Over the years, Campfield has garnered attention for some outlandish legislative bills like death certificates for aborted fetuses and the right to carry firearms on college campuses. What has raised the most ire of progressive Tennesseans is Campfield’s indefatigable attack of our gay and transgender community.

The Tennessee State Department of Education establishes the curriculum that all public schools in the state must adhere to. This includes sex education. Currently, there is no authorized curriculum which introduces, discusses, promotes, or even mentions “homosexuality”. Even so, SB0049 demands that, “..no public elementary or middle school shall provide any instruction or material that discusses sexual orientation other than heterosexuality.” Popularly known as the “Don’t Say Gay Bill”, Campfield and House Representative Bill Dunn have determined the solution to a problem that does not yet exist: schools teaching children about gay sex.

The Tennessee Equality Project (TEP), has started a petition on change.org to bring attention to this bill. TEP reports:

On Wednesday, April 13, State Senator Stacey Campfield will introduce his “Don’t Say Gay” bill (SB049) to the Senate Education Committee.  As introduced, the bill requires that “no public elementary or middle school shall provide any instruction or material that discusses sexual orientation other than heterosexuality.

There is really no more substance to the language of the bill. While Campfield and Dunn may preach that they understand, “…the sensitivity of particular subjects that are best explained and discussed in the home.” What they have actually done is introduce a bill that they know will covertly undermine an entire class of Tennesseans while at the same time making it easier to get away with bullying children.

Imagine a child with same sex parents that wanted to talk with a guidance counselor about problems at home, or a child that was being bullied for being perceived to be gay. Under this law, neither child could seek help from the school. Further, anti-bullying policies that contained protections for sexual orientation would have to be modified. Schools that didn’t have this protection would never see it.

Do not think this only applies to students either. The law does not specify a limit to the target of the legislation. Schools could not provide teacher in-service training for any issues that would include sexual orientation other than heterosexual. Workplace harassment for sexual orientation would be legal.

Think about it. It wasn’t too far back, spring of 2009, that Knoxville High School librarian Karyn Brinks and the ACLU forced the school district to unblock gay and transgender advocacy and support sites like http://glsen.org and http://pflag.org. However, with the broad all encompassing language of this bill, schools in Tennessee will not be allowed to “…provide any instruction or material that discusses sexual orientation other than heterosexuality.” Information found on the internet would now be censored as a matter of law.

More than just websites, you also have to consider that library books would now be banned. Children’s books like “Heather has Two Mommies” wouldn’t be the only one removed from shelves, but also magazines and newspapers. In history class, students couldn’t learn of gay Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben who trained Washington’s army for the American Revolution, that the modern computer exists because of the contributions of transsexual Lynn Conway, or that a major contributor in winning World War II was the breaking of the Enigma Code by Alan Turning, who was later arrested and chemically castrated for being gay.

By the way, in a twist of irony so profound that it must be providence, the source of justification for all this bigotry would also be banned from schools for containing multiple references to sexuality other than heterosexuality: the Holy Bible.

It’s funny in a way. The two most hyper-conservative legislators in Tennessee are banning the Holy Bible in school. I guess they want churches to be the only place that can teach about homosexuality to their youngsters.