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Tennessee GOP aims to define LGBTQ students as "abnormal"
A "don't say gay" bill on steroids. It bans "promotion of LGBT issues" because that "offends residents with Christian values."
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In a survey published last week by the Public Religion Research Institute,Tennessee tied for second place — after West Virginia, coming in at number one — along with Idaho, Alabama and Wyoming in showing the least support for LGBTQ rights.
And Tennessee’s current trajectory in passing a new “don’t say gay” bill reflects that in frightening fashion. If you think Florida’s “don’t say gay” is bad, wait until you get a load of the language in the Tennessee bill.
While Florida’ bill bans “instruction” about “sexual orientation and gender identity,” purposely using vague language to chill speech, Tennessee’s bill, with versions introduced in both the Assembly and Senate, is horrifically honest and specific in what it’s designed to do:
WHEREAS, textbooks and instructional materials and supplemental instructional materials that promote, normalize, support, or address controversial social issues, such as lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender (LGBT) lifestyles are inappropriate; and WHEREAS, the promotion of LGBT issues and lifestyles in public schools offends a significant portion of students, parents, and Tennessee residents with Christian values..
So yes, the bill is actually designed to stop the a “normalization'“ of something that is completely normal and natural — being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender — and thus stigmatize it as abnormal. LGBTQ students will be open to further ridicule and bullying because schools will deem them abnormal.
And the bill uses the claim that '“LGBT issues and lifestyles” are offensive to “Christian values.” This is a gross violation of the separation of church and state and another march forward for Christian nationalists, who are dangerously forcing their views into laws.
But there’s more:
Notwithstanding § 49-6-2201(h)(9)(B), the commission shall not recommend or list, the state board shall not approve for local adoption or grant a waiver pursuant to §49-6-2206, and LEAs and public charter schools shall not locally adopt or use in the public schools of this state, textbooks and instructional materials or supplemental instructional materials that promote, normalize, support, or address lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) issues or lifestyles.
So this would ban books that in any way are viewed as ones that “promote” or “normalize” “LBGT” issues and “lifestyles,” which would mean everything from novels that might have a gay or bisexual character — unless that character is portrayed as deviant or abnormal, which would under the law be fine — to science books that might discuss sexual orientation and gender.
One architect of this bill is Tennessee Representative Bruce Gaffney, who told Tennessee TV station WMC:
The state of Tennessee is not allowed to teach my daughters Christian values that I think are important and they should learn, so I teach those at home. So if those are not part of the school curriculum, I don’t see how LGBTQ and other issues and social lifestyles should be part of the curriculum.
Gaffney is equating promoting specific religious beliefs in public schools with teaching about the existence of people who are gay or transgender and discussing them as Americans who should be treated equally. This would be like equating promoting religious beliefs with teaching about people of different races. Teaching about the fact that there are LGBTQ people — and that they are normal, natural and healthy and should feel comfortable and equal in school — is of course far different than forcing Christian religious beliefs onto children.
Tennessee’s GOP legislature is also working on an abominable bill to ban gender-affirming medical care for transgender youth, following up on a bill the governor signed last year that banned transgender girls from participating in team sports in schools.
What’s so extreme about what Republicans in Tennessee are doing is that they actually already passed a “don’t say gay” bill last year that the governor signed. That law requires parents to be notified of anything in the curriculum that includes discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity and be given the option of opting-out.
The new bill is “don’t say gay” on steroids. It is is meant to completely demonize LGBTQ people, deeming them as abnormal and allowing for intimidation and violence. No instructions or books shall “normalize” or support LGBTQ people in schools under the law — making queer kids into targets of those who would harass them, with the full support of the school and the state.
And it’s all being done in the name of “Christian values.” This is the agenda of Christian nationalists, backed by the GOP nationally and the MAGA base: to use religion to discriminate against others and attain power.
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