Some Republican lawmakers in Tennessee want to prevent students from learning about LGBTQ issues or culture in schools. The idea isn’t a new one but seems to have a real chance this year. Conservative lawmakers are hoping to run on these wedge issues ahead of the midterms.
Rep. Bruce Griffey, R-Paris, says he’s sponsoring the legislation because he doesn’t think public schools are the place for sexuality to be discussed.
Griffey got into a back-and-forth with Rep. Bob Freeman, D-Nashville, over the bill on Wednesday.
“So, a book that discusses sexuality, or love or normalizes a heterosexual relationship is an issue for you as well?” asked Freeman. “So, Romeo and Juliet, say that is about a love story between a young man and a woman, do you have an issue with that?”
“I don’t have an issue with it,” Griffey answered.
Griffey says he’s just voicing concerns of his voters.
“My constituents indicated that they have an issue with the promotion of the LGBTQ lifestyles in schools,” Griffey said. “They feel like it’s kind of indoctrinating them.”
Chris Sanders with Tennessee Equality Project says this ignores families with LGBTQ members.
“It’s not just about LGBTQ kids. It can be LGBTQ parents who have straight cisgender kids, but their parents are erased,” Sanders said. “So, you’re erasing people’s family members. You’re erasing students.”
Tennessee Republicans are following Georgia, Oklahoma and other states who are pushing similar bills. Lynn Hatter, the news director at NPR affiliate WFSU in Tallahassee, says similar legislation is close to passing in Florida.
“The so-called ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, as opponents have described it, is now already passed [in] our Florida House of Representatives, and it is now going before the Florida Senate,” Hatter said.
Hatter says Governor Ron DeSantis, R-Florida, supports the idea and will likely sign it.
Not all Republicans are on board. Griffey’s bill narrowly passed the House Education Instruction Committee on a 8-7 vote — with four of those no votes coming from Republicans.