NASHVILLE - The controversial bill HB-0229 passed with a narrow majority in the House Education Subcommittee Tuesday, April 17. Better know as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, the legislation limits the teaching of sex education to only that of “natural human reproductive science” in grades K-8.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Joey Hensley of Hohenwald, has received criticism from Democratic and Republican representatives alike, who have questioned the need for the bill when current law explicitly forbids sex education in elementary and middle schools.
Among those voting against the bill was House Education Chairman Richard Montgomery (R-Sevierville); however, the bill passed with an 8-7 voice vote.

Also on April 17, the Knoxville City Council voted in favor of an employment nondiscrimination ordinance on its first reading.
“While we had good news in Knoxville, a majority (narrow to be sure) of the House Education Committee failed Tennessee,” said Chris Sanders, Nashville Committee Chair for Tennessee Equality Project,

The Tuesday, April 24, House floor session brought with it an equal amount of heat as Rep. Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby) argued that it was a failure by parents to instill proper values and not bullying that has lead to children committing suicide throughout Tennessee and the rest of the country.

“We can’t continue to legislate everything,” Faison said, during the debate over a cyberbullying bill. “We’ve had some horrible things happen in America and in our state, and there’s children that have actually committed suicide, but I will submit to you today that they did not commit suicide because of somebody bullying them. They committed suicide because they were not instilled the proper principles of where their self-esteem came from at home.”

Faison’s words appalled many observers present during the floor session, as his words seemed to place the blame on the parents of Tennessee youths who killed themselves after being bullied because of their sexual orientation.

Faison later issued a statement apologizing for his insensitivity yet seemed to stand by his belief that bullying is a part of growing up.

"After reviewing my comments on the House Floor today, I regret what was a poor choice of words,” the statement read. “My true intent was to protect children from becoming criminals. Suicide has touched my family, and I would never want a parent or family member to feel they were responsible for such an unimaginable tragedy."

No further progress was made on the “Don’t Say Gay” bill in April 24’s session.

This article has been republished from Out & About Nashville, and was part of a series of first-person pieces written by the late Bobbi Williams.

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