Tenn. Legislator Wants Everything Gay Banned from Classrooms

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Thursday March 19, 2009

A Tennessee state Representative wishes to outlaw any mention of gays and related subjects in schools up through the eighth grade.

State Rep. Stacy Campfield, a third-term lawmaker who has never to date proposed a bill that became law, submitted a stack of legislation for the consideration of his peers in the state government, of which the so-called "don't say gay" bill was only one example.

The bill quashing mention of gays was defended by the legislator, who said that, "I think our teachers need to stick with reading, writing, and arithmetic," according to a March 18 item posted at Tennessee station News Channel 5.com.

Added Campfield, "It confuses a lot of children that are already in a difficult part of life, and it's a very complex issue."

But others feared that sticking too closely to the three Rs could deprive students of other educational material, such social studies.

The Tennessee Equality Project's Chris Sanders was quoted as saying, "The problem with this bill is it would have a chilling effect on even being able to discuss the bill itself, and both sides of the bill in an 8th grade class where you are learning to write essays."

Sanders viewed the bill as unnecessary and anti-gay, the article said.

The article cited Sanders as denying suggestions from Campfield that young children were being taught about homosexuality at school, and quoted him as saying, "I don't think its being taught as curriculum."

Added Sanders, "If you can't mention something, that sends a signal that there is something wrong with it."

Campfield denied anti-gay animus, saying, "Homophobic means you're afraid of something.

"I think it's a complex issue.

"This bill is neutral," Campfield continued.

"It doesn't say we are going to preach against it. We are not going to preach for it; we are going to leave it neutral."

Other bills proposed by Campfield included one that would deny illegal immigrants birth certificates for their American-born children (in order to prevent them from establishing a claim to residency through a so-called "anchor baby"), and proposals for issuing death certificates for stillborn and aborted fetuses, according to a Feb. 16 story in the Knoxville News Sentinel.

Another bill submitted by Campfield would allow teachers and staff to carry firearms in schools.

The News Sentinel said that Campfield's own reckoning was that he had had 60 bills ready to submit, before he "pared it down," submitting 29 bills so far this legislative session.

Campfield also submitted bills to strip funding from the Black Caucus--because the Caucus will not admit Whites--and proposed a "porn tax" on adult entertainment materials, the article said.

The article noted that Campfield has been accused of "grandstanding" by the former House Speaker, Jimmy Naifeh. But Campfield doesn't get along much better with the current speaker, Kent Williams, who took his post after the last election, when Republicans gained a one-seat majority over Democrats, 50-49.

Campfield is also known for having joined an effort to force President Obama to surrender his birth certificate. Obama opponents hope to discover that Obama was not born on American soil, which would make him Constitutionally ineligible to serve as President.

Campfield, according to a Feb. 13 article in the Knoxville News Sentinel, cast his support of the suit in terms of settling any doubts.

As quoted by the News Sentinel, Campfield said, "I want to end the controversy.

"Obama claims he wants to be a very open person and this is the perfect way to show that--by turning over the birth certificate to get over all the questions and concerns."

Obama's campaign had made copies of a legal document attesting to his having been born in the state of Hawaii, the article said, but so-called "birthers" still insist that is not good enough.

Campfield cited doubts as to whether the document provided during the campaign was "a certification," or "a certificate--and there's a difference."

The article said that the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear one suit on the issue, though other suits are expected.

A March 18 News Sentinel story noted that the bill to prevent gay themes from being discussed in the classroom was deferred by a committee that requested a report on the issue.

The committee mandated a March, 2010 deadline for the report.

The committee also put another Campfield bill on hold that would have specified that only children whose parents specifically request that their children attend classes on "family life," which could include content on sexuality, would be allowed into those classes.

Current law stipulates that parents must request their children to be excused from the classes, which are otherwise mandatory.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.