Tennessee wants parents’ approval before giving LGBTQ education to students
In a bill now awaiting the signature of State Governor Bill Lee, Tennessee is moving to have parents sign off first on allowing their children to be instructed on sexual orientation or gender identity.
SB 1229 had been passed by the GOP-supermajority legislature, 64 votes for with 23 vote against. Supporters of the bill have positioned it as strengthening parental rights.
Tennessee targets LGBTQ education in schools
The bill, pushed by Covington Republicans Sen. Paul Rose and Rep. Debra Moody, argues that parents rather than the government should be the ones to make choices for their children.
Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver, R-Lancaster, declared that “parents have every right to opt their child out of anything that is taught in the school that the parent does not believe their child should be involved with.”
Once the bill becomes law, school districts have 30 days to give parents or guardians notice of upcoming instruction on LGBTQ education. It also allows them to opt out their kids without penalty.
The bill is similar to other attempts by Republican lawmakers to take out LGBTQ-related content from school.
The infamous “Don’t Say Gay” bill that barred the teaching of “anything other than heterosexuality” was not passed in 2012 and 2013– though another is being pushed in the House.
Opposition from different groups against the bill
Multiple groups like teachers, parents, and LGBTQ rights advocates have argued this bill would marginalize further gender minority groups. It would also hinder kids’ understanding of LGBTQ communities.
“How do you try to make people afraid of a certain population? Well, talk about how scary they are in school or refuse to acknowledge that they exist in school,” said Cathryn Oakley of the Human Rights Campaign.
Oakley added: “It hurts everybody when LGBTQ people are excluded from those discussions.”
Rep. Bob Freeman, D-Nashville, said: “We continue to stigmatize LGBTQ students and people in our state to the detriment of these students.”
During a Metro Nashville Public Schools board meeting, Lindsey Lieck, a teacher at HG Hill Middle School, said this bill is “detrimental to the success and well-being of students and staff.”
Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David urged Gov. Lee to veto the bill, and that instead of “indoctrinating hate in law with discriminatory bills,” Tennessee lawmakers should focus on issues like COVID-19 relief.
Restriction of LGBTQ rights in Tennessee
The present bill is consistent with previous bills pushed by conservative lawmakers to restrict LGBTQ rights in the state.
Last March, the legislature had passed a controversial transgender athlete bill, which requires children to play sports under their sex at birth.
This makes Tennessee the third US legislative state body to push this type of bill.
But because of the controversial anti-transgender bill, 50 corporations and 134 local businesses in Tennessee are protesting the anti-LGBtQ legislation.
What’s more, Joe Woolley, CEO of Nashville LGBT Chamber of Commerce, told The Tennessean that three conventions are preparing to pull out events out of Nashville because of the anti-transgender bill.