Political Animal


February 16, 2012 2:28 PM “Don’t Say Gay” Advances in Tennessee

By Ed Kilgore

In other outstanding Republican-led legislative action on the cultural front, a subcommittee of the Tennessee House of Representatives approved the infamous “Don’t Say Gay” legislation passed last year by the State Senate, banning any classroom discussion of homosexuality in public schools prior to the ninth grade. The Senate action attracted a great deal of national attention, in part thanks to the aggressively ignorant homophobic views of its sponsor, Sen. Stacey Campfield (R-Knoxville).

While House Democratic leader Craig Fitzhugh was the only member of the subcommittee to speak against the measure, another Democrat, John DeBerry of Memphis, had perhaps the most interesting comment in favor of “Don’t Say Gay:”

The basic right as an American is my right to life, my right to liberty and my right to the pursuit of happiness. Within that includes being able to run my home, raise my children as I see fit and to indoctrinate them as I see fit.

Ah yes, parenting as “indoctrination.” But some parents clearly need indoctrination on how to indoctrinate, as Nashville Scene’s Jeff Woods noted:

Before the House education subcommittee acted, chairman Joey Hensley scored bonus points by admonishing all Tennessee parents not to let their children watch “Modern Family” on television because they might discover there are homosexuals in the world.

These days, life often imitates parody.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Lucia on February 16, 2012 3:32 PM:

    Maybe indoctrinate is a poor choice of words, but I can't say I disagree with DeBerry's point. I reserve the right to teach my daughter values, such as tolerance and respect for everyone.

    Now I'll have to watch that show...

  • Dredd on February 16, 2012 4:23 PM:

    Anyone remember the song "No Milk Today" which had the lyrics "the company was gay" long before "gay" existed?

    The understanding of "word morph" is essential for a proper understanding of history.

  • jomo on February 16, 2012 5:04 PM:

    Rolling Stone had a lengthy and shocking article on a school district that legislated that teachers couldn't address homosexuality in anything but an aggressively neutral way. Kids were bullied and teachers were unable to reach out to them. A rash of nine suicides hit the school district.


  • jim filyaw on February 16, 2012 5:25 PM:

    this story and the one about the islamphobic "muslim expert" who lectured the murfreesboro p.d. remind me of how far around the bend the tennessee republican party has gone. time was that the party was the legitimate heir of the lincoln tradition. the infusion of bigots who could no longer tolerate the liberalism of the democratic party crossbred with the political preachers and their flocks has conjured up a truly vile stew. this is one former tennessean who is truly distressed over this development.

  • Zorro on February 16, 2012 7:19 PM:

    Don't say gay, just say Takei!

    (no, I'm serious)



  • Bob on February 16, 2012 7:58 PM:


    The Republicans have done a great job over the past 30 years of turning "liberal" into a pejorative and "conservative" into a badge of honor. It's no great surprise that people SAY they are more conservative. However, when it comes to things like Social Security, Medicare and the actual benefits in the President's healthcare plan (just not the dreaded "Obamacare"), they seem more liberal than they let on.

  • Kurt Rex Cooper on February 16, 2012 8:21 PM:

    When I was a kid, I never knew what gay was and spent 1/2 my life trying to be "straight" sleeping with guys but with a great deal of guilt and requiring lots of alcohol. Why? Because I did not know what to do with my attraction towards guys. (Dad: you know the women on Star Trek were just there for eye candy. Me: I never noticed.) Note: that was the culture of the time, it was not deliberate on my parents's part.

    Moral of the story. If you want to screw up some gay kids lives (yes it gets better as an adult) just do not let them know gays exist. They will be gay anyways, but you can have the satisfaction of either turning some into liars and some into manifestly depressed people and others into rebels. It's a waste of human energy and potential, like trying for force someone who is brilliant at math but terrible at art into a career as an artist.