Bill that would prevent gay discussion in schools once again referred for study

A bill (HB2997) by Knoxville Rep. Stacey Campfield that would prevent teachers from discussing homosexuality in Tennessee’s elementary and middle schools was, for the second time, sent to the state Department of Education by Tennessee’s House K-12 Subcommittee for “study."

The move came on Tuesday, March 4, at a regular meeting of the committee after Campfield had protested the voice vote taken originally on Feb. 19. The vote to send it to the state for study went down party lines. All Republicans on the panel - including Reps. Harry Brooks (Knoxville) and Richard Montgomery (Seymour) - sided with Campfield. All Democrats on the panel voted against him.

While some observers and news reports say the move effectively kills the bill, the roll call vote ended up with an additional stipulation that the previous voice vote did not have – that the state Department of Education investigate whether homosexuality is being discussed in schools.

Bruce Opie, legislative liaison for the department, told the committee that he would follow through with the request and report back "in a couple of weeks." It was not clear if that would allow the bill to come back to life before the committee.

At the vote on Feb. 19, Campfield had asked for a roll call vote, but only a voice vote was taken.

House rules say when a sponsor requests a roll call vote, that request must be honored. The Chairman of the committee, Rep. Joe Towns, D-Memphis, originally said the request for a roll call vote had not been made properly. He then reviewed the recorded tape of the bill debate and last week stood before House members and said there was a misunderstanding about taking the roll call vote and asked that the rules be suspended to allow for a called meeting of K-12 subcommittee to get the vote on the record. After about 20 minutes of debate, it was decided the roll call vote would be taken in the regular meeting of K-12 Subcommittee.

“The Tennessee Equality Project (TEP) is grateful to the six legislators who voted to uphold the Feb, 19, vote,” said Christopher Sanders, TEP president. “Now that Rep. Campfield’s desire for a roll call vote has been satisfied, we can sort out the real issues driving this bill—prejudice and election year politics.”

Sanders said TEP has purchased video from the Feb. 19, Subcommittee meeting and has posted it to their Website “to help Tennesseans understand the depth of fear and nonsense behind this legislation.”

The clip shows 38 minutes from the time young Lilith Jackson of the Chattanooga TEP delegation was introduced to the final gavel of the subcommittee meeting. (The clip is best viewed with broadband access and you may need to give the file a minute to fully buffer.)

“The clip shows Rep. Campfield’s attempts to defend the bill,” Sanders said. “At one point, you’ll notice that he implies that sometimes teachers 'proselytize' students with respect to their sexuality.”

Sanders said the clip also shows the legislator reading a list of types of minorities and gives particular emphasis to “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as if they were bad words. 

“He tries to draw a distinction between ‘tolerating’ different people and ‘accepting’ their 'lifestyles'," Sanders said. “And that word ‘lifestyles’ explains everything. It is the blank slate upon which those who are biased against our community write everything they imagine to be true about us, and it is always the worst. One’s sexual orientation and one’s gender identity are not lifestyles. They are aspects of our being and pertain to our personhood. Because Rep. Campfield either doesn’t realize or won’t admit that, he can’t see that his way of thinking forces him to defend not accepting all students in our state’s public schools, and that is an indefensible position.”

Photo courtesy of Joe Eats World

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