Tennessee law may protect anti-gay bullying

By By Charlotte Scarborough, Staff Writer

American society has taken great strides toward achieving equality for its citizens in the past few decades. Unfortunately, it seems like basic human rights are now under assault in the state of Tennessee.

The Family Action Council of Tennessee (FACT), a conservative organization that believes in protecting their version of family values, has proposed an “anti-bullying” bill that would protect those who target gay, lesbian and transgender students because of religious, philosophical or political views.

It is shocking to think that after all of the progress made toward equality, such blatant bigotry remains. It is especially inexcusable that members of this organization would go so far as to assume that prejudice-based behavior should be condoned in the name of religion.

According to FACT’s official website, the law would allow local school districts to enable policies that favor a political stance or that protect certain students at the expense of others.

The wording of the bill itself is vague. FACT denied to elaborate or make any comment on the bill. FACT justifies their beliefs by arguing that they are standing up for students’ right to free speech.

School is meant to be a secure environment where students can feel safe and accepted. If this bill passes, then bullies will use it to their advantage; there will be no one for the victim to go to for help.

According to social studies teacher and Gay Straight Alliance sponsor Arthur Bescher, this bill would make schools a much more dangerous place by giving bullies the power to be more aggressive towards all students, not only those of certain sexual orientation.

Bullying in Tennessee schools has gotten worse.

According to Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gay (PFLAG) member Ted McKnight, Tennessee has had two recent teen suicides resulting from the hostile environments in their schools. Both 18-year-old Jacob Rogers and 14-year-old Phillip Parker committed suicide as a result of almost daily bullying which their high schools did very little to prevent.

Luckily, there are many forces working against this bill to keep it from passing.

According to McKnight, the Tennessee Equality Project is lobbying against this bill and other members of PFLAG are writing letters to their representatives in the state legislators to make their strong opposition to this bill and its followers’ beliefs known.

The passing of this bill would show society, and especially impressionable children, that it is justifiable to discriminate against those who are different, whether it is because of their race, culture, or sexual orientation. Luckily, because of the recent major advancements in culture, even if it were to pass in Tennessee there would be a large uprising against it.

The fact that there are still people in the world who would go to the length of harassing others with the intent of hurting them in some way is astounding as much as it is disgusting and horrible. Being gay should carry the exact same weight of being straight; it is a person’s sexual orientation, and no one should be treated differently because of it. These things should be common knowledge, but if the views of such organizations as FACT are deemed acceptable, then the fight for equality will have been lost.