The Tennessee General Assembly reconvenes next Tuesday, and it’s time for them to consider two bills, one old and one new, that deal with how homosexuality is treated in the public-school system. In the wake of the December suicide of Jacob Rogers (below) after relentless anti-gay bullying, this is a state we should be paying a lot of attention to.
The first measure is the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which passed the TN Senate this past May. Now it just needs the approval of the House and a signature from Republican governor Bill Haslam—two things that should be shamefully easy to procure.
The bill “prohibits the teaching of or furnishing of materials on human sexuality other than heterosexuality in public school grades K-8,” essentially asking closeted kids to keep their sexuality to themselves until high school.
But limiting discussion in sex-ed and biology classes (not to mention English and history) strictly to heterosexuality isn’t enough for the Family Action Council of Tennessee!
The second bill, as reported by WZTV FOX 17, is a new bill championed by FACT (yep, that’s the acronym) that would allow students to share their thoughts on the gays based on religious or political views. FACT is even pushing this measure in spite of Jacob Rogers’ suicide, adding insult to injury by blaming his death on alcohol and drug abuse.
Living in the company of these anti-gay bigots would drive us to drink, too.
Here’s what the Nashville Scene, an alt-weekly, had to say about it:
Anti-gay conservatives are working overtime to explain away the suicide of young Jacob Rogers. They dismiss all the name-calling and bullying at his high school. Instead, they claim it was Jacob’s own fault somehow. In its latest radio report, David Fowler’s FACT concedes “it’s wrong to bully people because of their sexual practices” but blames Jacob’s death on his own alcohol and drug abuse and eating disorder. According to FACT, it’s all “the rotten fruit of the all-about-me individualist culture that comes when we deny the existence of God and his image in us.”… Blaming the victim is necessary to prevent Jacob’s death from damaging chances for passage of FACT’s 2012 state legislative priority—a bill to make it easier for young bigots to mistreat gay schoolkids.
The Tennessee Equality Project, the state’s main gay-rights group, calls the bill “a license to bully.” The group’s spokesperson, Chris Sanders, says, “This law would give encouragement to people…to express hatred.”
The bill’s Republican sponsors, Rep. Vance Dennis and Sen. Jim Tracy, still aren’t sure if they even want to take the bill to a vote. (E-mail Dennis and Tracy and tell them you don’t want it to go anywhere, either.)
If the law does make it anywhere—which it likely won’t, given the existing backlash—here’s hoping it backfires and allows high schools students who think being gay is a-okay the right to speak their political beliefs, too.
We pray they’d be loud enough to drown out the teens using religion as an excuse for bigotry.