By Michelle Garcia
Originally published on Advocate.com January 26 2012 3:58 PM ET
The father of slain gay college student Matthew Shepard spoke out to Tennessee's legislature, asking members to drop their antigay prejudices and the antigay policies they're considering.
In a press conference with the Tennessee Equality Project, Dennis Shepard said legislation being considered by lawmakers is detrimental to the state's gay population, and he added that such policies only foster bullying.
Anti-LGBT bills being considered include a "Don't Say Gay" bill, which is intended to prevent teachers from talking about homosexuality in public elementary schools. There's also a bill known as the "License to Bully," which allows students to denounce homosexuality in classes if they are expressing religious freedom. Finally, another piece of legislation is a "Bathroom Bill," which was introduced by a state representative who said he would "stomp a mudhole" into any transgender woman using the same department store dressing room as his daughter or wife.
Citing recent suicides of LGBT teens due to severe bullying, Shepard said these proposed laws are forms of bullying in themselves, Metro Weekly reports. He urged state lawmakers to work toward an "all-inclusive law" to protect LGBT citizens of all ages. "These kids are in fear and they are pushed further into the closet," he said. "This is not the time to do that. This country needs their best and their brightest to reach their full potential. They're not going to do that if they're afraid to come to school, if they're afraid to walk down the street, or even if they're afraid to go home and get on their computer. So, please, I urge all of you to help."