Tennessee bill would ban teaching of LGBTQ issues in schools

This Jan. 8, 2020, photo shows the Tennessee State Capitol in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark...
This Jan. 8, 2020, photo shows the Tennessee State Capitol in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)(Mark Humphrey | AP)
Published: Feb. 2, 2022 at 9:48 PM EST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Tennessee lawmakers are considering a bill to ban the teaching of LGBTQ issues in Tennessee’s public schools.

It’s the latest in a wave of legislation that targets the LGBTQ community in the Mid-South.

As a native Tennessean, Jace Wilder knows how difficult it can be growing up as a member of the LGBTQ community in a conservative state.

Wilder says he grew up hearing some of the same ideas spelled out in Tennessee House Bill 800.

The bill, sponsored by State Rep. Bruce Griffey, would ban textbooks and other instructional materials in public schools that “promote, normalize, support or address LGBT issues or lifestyle.”

Griffey first introduced the bill last year and says schools have no business teaching students about LGBTQ issues, which he says could offend “a significant portion of students, parents and Tennessee residents with Christian values.”

“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,” said Griffey. “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.”

But Wilder says religion is already taught in public schools through subjects like history, literature and art.

“We still teach the world’s religions. We just don’t enforce any particular ideology or any particular group over another,” said Wilder.

Wilder says HB800 is an attempt to use the state to silence and erase groups already marginalized.

“Even if you disagree with the existence of a certain group, it’s good to learn that they are there so that you can still respect them as human beings,” said Wilder.

Wilder fears if the bill becomes law, it could lead to higher suicide rates and more bullying among youth.

“When we start saying on a legislative level that it’s not okay to talk about this group or it’s not okay to include them in the conversation, we’re really only perpetuating the bullying but in a legal standpoint,” said Wilder. “It’s really just going to have more detrimental effects and it’s going to keep excluding individuals.”

The bill is the latest in a wave of legislation in Republican-dominated states that critics say limit the rights of LGBTQ Americans.

Last year, all three Mid-South states enacted transgender sports bans.

HB800 is undergoing a fiscal review to determine how much it would cost the state to implement.

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