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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Proposed bill may quiet conversation on homosexuality

For most elementary school students, the issue of sexuality may barely register on their radars. But a proposed bill may make it this season's political hot topic. For most elementary school students, the issue of sexuality may barely register on their radars. But it may be this season's political hot topic.
A proposed bill in the Tennessee Legislature wants to spell out how schools can introduce sexuality - and only heterosexuality - to your child. It's sponsored by State Sen. Stacey Campfield and Rep. Bill Dunn - both Republicans from Knoxville.
At the heart of the bill is a move to prevent children in elementary and middle schools to have classes that discuss sexual orientation other than heterosexuality.
Gay rights activists say it's a ploy to further discriminate against them.
Those who support the bill say it's about having age appropriate curriculum.
"You're looking at legislation that is going to make sure that when you are talking about sexuality with students that it is age appropriate," said Matthew Parsons, a father of seven children and founder of the group "Something Better."
He says he's in favor of the proposed bill that avoids talking about homosexuality to kids so young.
"If we're talking about homosexuality, we are talking about specific acts that are going to be unhealthy for anybody to engage in outside of marriage."
The bill, known as House Bill 229 or Senate Bill 49, says in part: "No public elementary or middle school shall provide any instruction or material that discusses sexual orientation other than heterosexuality."
At least one group says that's anti-gay - and calls it the "Don't Say Gay" bill.
"The Don't Say Gay bill raises all kinds of issues about anti-gay bias, free speech and government overreach," said Ben Byers with the Tennessee Equality Project.
The group recently received $10,000 from the Human Rights Campaign to fight what they consider negative legislation in Tennessee, including HB 229.
"It limits what teachers and students are able to discuss in the classroom," Byers said. "It means they can't talk about gay issues or sexuality even with students who may be gay or have gay family."
Both Byers and Parsons agree it's a parent's job to talk to their children about sex but disagree on if homosexuality should be a part of that conversation.
Sen. Campfield's office released the following statement about the bill:
"It's the family's responsibility and not someone with an agenda - one way or the other. The bill is neutral. We should leave it to families to decide when it is appropriate to talk with children about sexuality - specifically before the eighth grade."
The Tennessee Equality Project says there are ways to discuss human sexuality without politicizing the issue in the classroom.
The group also says there is no curriculum in Tennessee that discusses sexuality in grades K-8 so the bill is not needed.
Both Byers and Parsons say they will be watching how the bill progresses.
If you'd like information on the Tennessee Equality Project or the group Something Better, click on the links below. 

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