One of the most controversial proposals in the Tennessee legislature is back, and this year its opponents believe the new version of the so-called "Don't Say Gay" bill is the worst yet.
The bill, sponsored by State Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, has been around for six years now, and every year it gets closer and closer to the governor's desk.
Campfield said he considers the "act of homosexuality" to be dangerous to a child's health and safety, and the bill would prohibit the teaching of homosexuality to elementary and middle school students. He says, at that age, those conversations are best kept out of the classroom.
"We're going to leave this up to families to discuss what is age appropriate when it is age appropriate for those very, very young children. We're going to leave that up to the families," Campfield said.
The "Don't Say Gay" bill passed in the Senate in 2011, but a companion bill failed in the House last year.
In the past, opponents have worried the bill would keep counselors from talking to kids who might be subjected to gay bullying or questioning suicide. Campfield has changed the bill this year to allow counselors to talk to kids, but also requires counselors to notify parents about the conversation.
"If it's an emergency, if there's a health issue or a safety issue, go to them and do what you got to do, but if it's just a counseling issue parents should be involved that their children are being counseled," Campfield said.
That's the part that concerns many, who say that if kids can't confide in their counselors, they won't have anywhere to turn.
"You could call it the 'classroom tattletale' or 'snitch' bill this year in a lot of ways," said Chris Sanders, with the Tennessee Equality Project. "We think this will erode the trust between students and counselors. This is one environment, the school, where kids can be bullied or are dealing with all kinds of issues, and now they don't have a safe place to go where they can be assured of sensitivity and confidentiality."
Past versions of the bill have sparked large protests on capitol hill, and Campfield said he doesn't understand why people think this is the worst version of the bill.
Campfield says the current legislation has a House sponsor and he's optimistic about its passage.
Copyright 2013 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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