HRC Blog

Dennis Shepard Testifies Against TN’s “Don’t Say Gay” Bill

The following post comes from HRC Digital Media Intern Eric Cameron:

Dennis Shepard  - father of Matthew Shepard - is taking a stand against the recent slew of anti-LGBT legislation passing through the Tennessee legislature, including the controversial “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

The proposed bill would outlaw discussion of non-heterosexual behavior in Tennessee public schools before the ninth grade. The bill cleared the Senate last year and is now being debated in the House.

Shepard believes the anti-gay rhetoric behind the bill encourages the same sort of harassment his openly gay son suffered.

“What it does is say, ‘Well, nobody’s going to do anything,’” said Shepard in a Nashville press conference earlier this week. “It creates a policy [that says], ‘It’s open season.’”

Tennessee Equality Project has posted full video from the conference:

Thirteen years ago, Matthew Shepard was beaten and left to die in a remote field near Laramie, Wyoming. The tragedy ignited a national conversation about hate crime protection based on sexual orientation and gender identity, culminating in the eventual passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in October 2009.

Tennessee has seen a surge in anti-LGBT legislation in recent months, including the transphobic HB 2279, which would “restrict access to public restrooms and public dressing rooms designated by sex to members of that particular sex.”

The legislature is also considering a “License to Bully” provision similar to the one recently debated in Michigan.

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