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George Takei on TN’s Just-Passed “Don’t Say Gay” Bill

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Slade Sohmer

By Slade Sohmer on May 20, 2011

The Tennessee state senate just passed the controversial Senate Bill 49, a galactically stupid piece of legislation that ensures the state’s teachers cannot even mention homosexuality in classes from kindergarten through eighth grade. Hence, it’s been dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

The bill stems from the flawed premise that by not discussing homosexuality, the issue, and the gays, will simply go away. It states: “No public elementary or middle school shall provide any instruction or material that discusses sexual orientation other than heterosexuality.”

SB49’s sponsor, State Sen. Stacey Campfield, wildly calls his legislation a “neutral” bill, rejecting any claims of bias from critics. “We should leave it to families to decide when it is appropriate to talk with children about sexuality—specifically before the eighth grade,” he said.

The bill passed by a vote of 20-10.

Former Strak Trek helmsman and notable out actor George Takei is understandably upset with this legislation. So this week he recorded a message for LGBT youth and the teachers who would be affected by this law. Takei states proudly that he is “lending his name to the cause.” So, any time you need to say the word “gay,” kids and teachers, you can simply say “Takei.” Watch this:

For more, check out It’s Ok to be Takei.

According to the Tennessean, “The vote likely settles the issue for the year. Companion legislation in the state House of Representatives has not advanced out of committee, and supporters of the bill say they do not intend to bring it up again until 2012.”

House vote or not, the truly awful part about this piece of legislated bigotry is that it runs counter to research showing that “lesbian, gay, and bisexual teens are more likely to attempt suicide when they live in a community that is less supportive of their identities,” according to a new study.

The study, authored by Mark Hatzenbuehler, a Columbia University psychologist and researcher, and published in April’s Pediatrics, clearly shows that a more supportive environment leads to better mental health, or at least fewer suicide attempts:

Gay, lesbian and bisexual teens living in counties with the lowest social index scores were 20 percent more likely to have attempted suicide than gays in counties with the highest index scores. Overall, about 25 percent of gay teens in low-scoring counties had attempted suicide, versus 20 percent of gay teens in high-scoring counties.

Among straight teens, suicide attempts were 9 percent more common in low-scoring counties. There were 1,584 total suicide attempts — 304 of those among gays, lesbians and bisexuals.

Hatzenbuehler said the results show that “environments that are good for gay youth are also healthy for heterosexual youth.”

Nah, but isn’t it just easier to will the problem away through sheer ignorance? Of course.

Takei’s quick on the draw, tweeting this immediately following the bill’s passing:

Mr. Sulu, you are a national treasure. Don’t ever change.

But “wait, there’s more,” as they say in infomercials. Prominent LGBT blog Towleroad points out that this isn’t the only anti-gay bill pending in Tennessee: “[T]here’s another horrible piece of legislation in Tennessee aside from the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill which got final approval this week. This bill prohibits local municipalities from enacting their own non-discrimination statues and would force them to rely on state law. The new law would void a Nashville ordinance barring companies that discriminate against gays and lesbians from doing business with the city. The Tennessee Chamber of Commerce lobbied for the bill. FedEx, AT&T, Comcast, DuPont, Pfizer, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Caterpillar, KPMG, Whirlpool, Embraer, Alcoa, and United HealthCare are on that board, notes Americablog.”

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