A bill passed Friday by the Tennessee Senate would forbid public school teachers and students in grades kindergarten through eight from discussing the fact that some people are gay, the Associated Press reports.
Opponents deride the measure as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. They say it’s unfair to the children of gay parents and could lead to more bullying. Supporters say it is intended to give teachers clear guidance for dealing with younger children on a potentially explosive topic.
The bill isn’t likely to be taken up by the House before lawmakers adjourn this spring, but the sponsor there has said he would push it forward in 2012 when the General Assembly comes back for the second year of the session.
Passage would make Tennessee the first state to enact such legislation, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In 2003, Washington defeated a proposal similar to Tennessee’s, as did California in 2005 and 2006.
The “Star Trek” actor has been a vocal advocate for gay rights, speaking out against Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in California, and calling out an Arkansas school board member who encouraged gay teens to commit suicide. In the latest video, which can be seen at www.georgetakei.com, YouTube and numerous other websites, Takei says:
“The so-called ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law is premised on the misguided belief that, by not talking about gay people, they can simply make us disappear. I’m here to tell Tennessee, and all LGBT youth, and all teachers that would be affected by this law, that I am here for you. In fact, I am lending my name to the cause. Any time you need to say ‘gay,’ you can simply say ‘Takei.’
“For example, you could safely proclaim you are a supporter of ‘Takei marriage.’ If you’re in a more festive mood, you can march in a ‘Takei Pride Parade.’ Even homophobic slurs don’t seem as hurtful if someone says, ‘That is so Takei.’ And around the holidays, you can sing, ‘Don we now our Takei apparel.’
“Speaking of apparel, I’ve created a T-shirt — ‘It’s okay to be Takei.’ I hope you wear it proudly. We also have buttons, mousepads and mugs all in time for Takei Pride Month, and all proceeds go to charity.
“Thank you, and as they say on ‘The Flintstones,’ have a Takei old time!”
The items are available at www.itsoktobetakei.com.