Republican Tennessee Governor Bill Haslem has signed the ‘Gateway Sexual Activity’ bill into law. Earlier this year, the Tennessee Republican controlled legislature overwhelmingly passed the bill, passing the House 68-23 and the Senate 28-1. The governor signed the bill before the Mother’s Day weekend.
The law is so vague that it could define kissing and holding hands as ‘gateways to sexual activity’ and make it difficult for sex education teachers to address such activity in class. The law also may prevent sex education teachers from discussing contraception.
The new law allows teachers who do encourage the use of contraception to promote safe sex to be punished, which could scare teachers from even mentioning contraception at all, meaning sex education courses would consist of just abstinence-only programs, which are proven to not work in preventing teen pregnancy.
The law also levies a fine of up to $500 to guest speakers who promote safe sex or “gateway sexual activity.” So if a speaker from Planned Parenthood or another organization visits the sex education class to speak, talking about anything that isn’t abstinence-only would be punished. What this amounts to is the punishing of free speech and it’s the Republicans who passed it.
Sex education teachers are being boxed in by a party that has been hijacked by religious extremists who think anything they consider sexual is evil. This bill has made Tennessee a joke. To outlaw crucial information from being discussed in sex education is unfair to students who will one day have to go out into the real world unprepared. Sex is a part of human nature and when abstinence-only is all that is taught, the likelihood that students will have unsafe sex that lead to unwanted pregnancies increase. If Republicans really believe that teaching only abstinence will stop kids from having sex, they’re living in a dream world. If there is one thing teenagers are curious about when they hit puberty, it’s sex. No matter what parents do to keep their kids from engaging in sexual activity, they can’t protect their kids all of the time. That’s why teaching about safe sex methods is critical. Because if kids are going to have sex, they should at least have the knowledge to make it safe. But since when do Republicans actually want our children to learn anything at all? It’s almost as if the GOP wants our kids to be stupid and unsafe.