Tennessee Legislators Waging War on State’s LGBT Youth

by HRC Staff

Trio of bills aim to silence LGBT youth and decimate critical resources


Washington– The Human Rights Campaign – the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, is joining with the Tennessee Equality Project (TEP) in denouncing a series of bills pending in the state legislature that are hostile to the state’s LGBT youth. The bills include HB 229, the “Don’t Say Gay” bill that would prohibit educators from acknowledging LGBT people exist; HB 1153, the “License to Bully” bill that would allow students to harass their classmates if it was a reflection of their ‘religious, philosophical, or political views;’ and HB 0432, a bill targeting gay-straight alliances by requiring parents to give permission before their children  join clubs at school.

“These bills are indicative of a larger threat we’re seeing emerge in state legislatures across the country,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “National anti-LGBT organizations have found that their fringe messages are no longer resonating with mainstream Americans, so they’re instead turning to extremist state legislators to carry out their work. This is legislation that stigmatizes and ostracizes LGBT youth, and says that it’s ok to treat LGBT people as second-class citizens. These bills represent a methodical war on critical supports for LGBT youth, and we must ensure they never become law.”

“These bills – particularly the “Don’t Say Gay” bill – send the message to our state’s youth that there is something wrong with whom they are. That this message is coming from those elected to serve the best interests of all Tennesseans makes it all the more disturbing,” said Jonathan Cole, TEP Co-Chair. “We urge Governor Haslam and our state’s legislative leaders to speak out against these discriminatory bills and refocus their efforts on things that really matter – creating jobs and strengthening our state’s economy.”

The most imminent and destructive of these three bills is the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which has passed the full State Senate and the House Education Committee. HRC is calling on its members and supporters to add their voice to those calling on Governor Bill Haslam and House Speaker Beth Harwell to kill the dangerous “Don’t Say Gay” legislation. The bill is now headed to the House Calendar and Rules Committee before receiving a House floor vote.

As originally drafted, the bill says “no public elementary or middle school shall provide any instruction or material that discusses sexual orientation other than heterosexuality.” An amended version now prohibits “classroom instruction, course materials or other informational resources that are inconsistent with natural human reproduction.”

The Human Rights Campaign is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

The Tennessee Equality Project is Tennessee’s only statewide organization dedicated to the protection and expansion of the rights of LGBT Tennesseans. Learn more about TEP at www.tnep.org.

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