Don't Say Gay Bill is Back in Tennessee

Tennessee’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill is back, and this time even more ridiculous than the last. The bill, officially labeled the Classroom Protection Act, was introduced for the first time in the state Senate in 2011 by Stacey Campfield (R). The bill that passed in the Senate and died in the House prohibits discussion of homosexuality in classrooms in elementary and middle schools. The new iteration of the bill surpasses its previous absurdity with a new provision requiring guidance counselors to report students who are, or might be, gay to their parents. 

Campfield has spent almost a decade fighting for this bill. He served in the Tennessee House of Representatives prior to his service in the Senate, and first introduced the “Don’t Say Gay” bill in 2008 during his time in the House. The bill was resurrected after failing the first time, in the Senate in 2011. Now, it is back again in 2013. 

In 2011, the bill passed in the Senate but was labeled useless in the House due to the fact that Tennessee public schools do not have sex education programs until the ninth grade. Therefore, there is no formal discussion of any sexuality, let alone homosexuality at the elementary and middle school levels.

When asked to defend his proposal, Campfield said, "I just think there are situations where some kids maybe sexually unsecure [sic] in themselves or sexually confused and don't necessarily know clearly what direction they are. If someone, a person of influence, says maybe you're gay, maybe you should explore those things — maybe the child, who is young and impressionable, says maybe I am gay."

In his view, curbing discussion of homosexuality in the classroom will reduce the number of gay people and restore "traditional" American family values. 

In addition to confusion about genetics and what determines a person’s sexuality, the state senator also seems to be confused on basic biology and the spread of disease. When discussing the origin and spread of HIV/AIDS, he made the assertion that “it is virtually— not completely, but virtually — impossible to contract AIDS through heterosexual sex. Most people realize 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, I believe.” 

Campfield’s other initiatives include issuing death certificates for aborted fetuses, allowing employees of public colleges to carry handguns on campus, and limiting lottery winnings to $600 for people receiving public assistance. 

Some of you may be wondering how Campfield got elected. In a Southern district such as this, he was able to pull 53% of the vote while his opponent only garnered 37%. 

A supporter of Congressman Todd Akin’s (R-Mo.) rape comments, Campfield is yet another embarrassment to the broken Republican Party. Given that the bill hasn’t succeeded in the past, it is unlikely it will in the future. However, it is important to be aware that there are people out there who take this stuff seriously — and that’s scary.

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Stephanie Northwood

Pursuing BA in Political Science at Allegheny College, to graduate in May 2013, most interested in health and foreign policy, Progressive.

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