Legislation that prohibits teachers from discussing homosexuality and even saying the word "gay" in kindergarten through eighth-grade classrooms was approved by a key committee in the Tennessee State Senate on Friday.


The legislation, Senate Bill 49, would make it illegal for teachers to discuss any sexual orientation or behavior other than heterosexuality before the ninth grade. The bill has come to be known by its critics as the "don't say gay" bill.

The bill's sponsor, Republican State Senator Sen. Stacey Campfield, said he was not homophobic, but the progressive blog ThinkProgress recently dug up a 2009 radio interview in which he compares homosexuality to bestiality.

"You teach about the Civil Rights Movement," the state senator was asked. "Why not teach about the Gay Rights Movement?"

"Because they’re different types of movements," Campfield responded. "If I want to talk about the bestiality movement, do you think we should be teaching that?"

KnoxNews reported that Campfield unsuccessfully pushed for similar legislation for six years as a member of the state House.

An amendment to the "don't say gay" bill requires the Board of Education to conduct a study to determine if any teaching about homosexuality is occurring, but the bill would ban the discussion of homosexuality regardless of the Boards findings. The Board of Education said it was not aware of any incidents in which homosexuality was discussed in a classroom.

Tennessee does not require sex education for its students, but does have a "family life curriculum" that emphasizes abstinence.