Gus Kenworthy
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Tennessee Will Excuse Students From Lessons With LGBTQ+ Content

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee

Tennessee’s governor has signed a bill into law requiring schools to give parents a 30-day notice about any lessons that deal with sexual orientation or gender identity and allow the parents to opt their children out of that instruction.

Republican Gov. Bill Lee signed Senate Bill 1229 into law Monday. It applies “regardless of whether the curriculum is offered as part of a family life program, sex education program, or other program,” according to the bill summary. Students will not be penalized for opting out.

The new law stands to interfere with literature and history courses, the Human Rights Campaign notes, as it could keep students from learning about the AIDS epidemic, the Stonewall riots, or even Supreme Court decisions. It “also disproportionately disadvantages LGBTQ youth who may not have supportive families and put children at greater risk of health consequences,” says an HRC press release.

Several pieces of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation have been introduced in Tennessee this year, part of a trend around the nation. Lee has already signed a bill barring transgender students from playing on sports teams comporting with their gender identity. Legislators have sent three more anti-trans bills to Lee for his signature or veto.

One would require businesses and government buildings to post warning signs if they let trans people use the restrooms or changing rooms designated for their gender identity. Another would make it a cause for legal action if a student encounters a trans person in such facilities in schools. The third would ban gender-affirming medical care for trans minors.

“Gov. Bill Lee and the Tennessee state legislature’s ‘Slate of Hate’ bills are nothing more than a politically motivated effort to drum up fear and sow division — and SB 1229 is a discriminatory piece of legislation that would put the health and safety of LGBTQ students at risk,” HRC President Alphonso David said in the release. “All students deserve access to a quality academic experience, including the opportunity to learn about themselves and critically important health information as they develop. Rather than drafting and passing inflammatory bills, state lawmakers should be focused on real issues like the COVID-19 pandemic or crumbling infrastructure that are impacting Tennesseans.”

“LGBTQ people are integral to the fabric of American society,” added Melodía Gutiérrez, HRC associate regional campaign director. “Gov. Lee and the Tennessee state legislature’s disgraceful attempts to erase LGBTQ individuals from coursework is discrimination in its clearest form. By signing SB 1229 into law, Gov. Lee and Tennessee lawmakers are actively putting LGBTQ youth at risk, who already experience heightened levels of anxiety and depression. They must stop this rampage of discriminatory legislation.”

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