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New Tenn. Law Could Protect Anti-Gay Bullying

by Jason St. Amand
National News Editor
Thursday Jan 5, 2012
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A change in a Tennessee law could allow students to bully their classmates based on sexual orientation, if they do it for religious reasons, the Huffington Post reported.

The Family Action Council of Tennessee (FACT), a conservative and anti-gay group, has made it one of their missions to have the law go into action, allowing students to voice their hate against homosexuality without receiving any punishments.

The organization’s newsletter says that it wants "to make sure [the law] protects the religious liberty and free speech rights of students who want to express their views on homosexuality."

David Fowler, a former Republican state senator who is now FACT’s president said, "The purpose is to stop bullying, not create special classes of people who are more important than others."

Several LGBT civil rights groups are appalled of the possible law change, including the state’s LGBT advocacy group, Tennessee Equality Project. They claim the law will allow students to express their hate while hiding behind religion.

"This kind of legislation can send a message that it’s ok to hate and we’ll even give you religious sanction for it," Tennessee Equality Project official Chris Sanders tells local news station, WSMV. "What if one student calls another one a sinner or a sodomite, or says you’re perverted or you’re unnatural or you are going to hell? That’s where it gets really dicey."

EDGE reported in a Dec. 9, 2011 article about a Tennessee teen, Jacob Rogers, who committed suicide after enduring years of anti-gay bullying while in school.

Gay activists are worried that if the bill is passed, more LGBT students could tragically end up like Rogers.

Tennessee has been notable for anti-gay legislation of late. Last year, a law allowed the state to override local anti-discrimination ordinances.

More notoriously, the state’s legislature passed a bill that would not allow public schools even to discuss gay issues. Many see the a"Don’t Say Gay" law as contributing to bullying of students gay or perceived to be gay by marginalizing them even further.

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