‘Don’t Say Gay’ Idled, to Wait on New Sex Ed Rewrite

After more than a year, backers of the bill nicknamed “don’t say gay” have put it aside. Now their focus is on a measure meant to rewrite Tennessee law on sex education.

Representative Bill Dunn, a Knoxville Republican, told lawmakers it’s time to rewrite the sex education portion of state law.

He says that’s a better option than pursuing the narrowly drawn “don’t say gay” bill, which was promoted as a way to keep classrooms from discussing homosexuality.

“The more that you look at this bill, and you look at the different sections of the code that deal with sex education, you realize that this whole section was put together piecemeal, different legislators at different times put it together.”

Dunn says the House should consider a bill from Nashville’s Jim Gotto. It would rewrite the sex education provisions of state law in a comprehensive manner.

In the meantime, “don’t say gay” isn’t dead, but rather on-hold. It could be brought up in the last days of the legislative session.

Representative Dunn says the sex education proposal may be considered in the House Education Subcommittee as early as tomorrow.

For Gotto’s bill to be addressed tomorrow, it would have to be added to a calendar that already includes 83 items.

The original “don’t say gay” bill, SB 229 Dunn/SB 49 Campfield, was promoted as a way to keep school sex education courses from mentioning homosexuality.

Opponents argue that by outlawing any mention of sexual preference the bill opened up gay students to harassment from fellow students, and that adults would be barred from protecting those victims from bullying.

Dunn was the original sponsor, but earlier this year he handed off those duties to Rep. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald. Hensley confirmed to the House Education Subcommittee what the purpose of the original bill is:

“This is a bill that is attempting to assure parents that are sending their children to school that they will be taught only certain information.”

Even though Dunn is no longer the sponsor, Hensley deferred to the Knoxville Republican and it was Dunn who announced that the disposition of the bill.

“Perhaps it’d be best if we took House Bill 229 and put it on the last calendar of this committee, let this other bill come forward and it might be able to go ahead and make more sense out of the whole code and than everybody will understand exactly what we can and can’t do in our schools.”

Translation: “Don’t say gay” isn’t dead but is on hold in the House Education Subcommittee.

The Sex Ed rewrite bill, HB 3621 Gotto / SB 3310 Johnson, has the green light.

Gotto’s bill is a nine-page replacement for an entire section of Tennessee Code Annotated (the “code” that Dunn referred to).

Dunn’s deferral of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill followed Monday’s comments by Gov. Bill Haslam: Haslam, Hensley Still At Odds Over ‘Don’t Say Gay’

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