published Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

Rep. Richard Floyd joins UT 'Sex Week' opponents with resolution

NASHVILLE — Rep. Richard Floyd says he is sponsoring a resolution condemning the University of Tennessee's "Sex Week" because "people in my district are fed up with the perversion."

The Chattanooga Republican's comments came following House Education Committee members' approval of the measure, which attacks the festivities organized by a student group at the UT Knoxville campus as "an outrageous misuse of student fees and grant monies."

"If those people who organize this thing want to have it, hey, let them get off campus," said Floyd in an interview after the committee voted for the bill with no discussion. "They can go out there in a field full of sheep if they want to and have all the sex week they want.

But, the lawmaker said, "don't drag the UTK brand through the mud and use it to promote there own agenda."

Floyd changed the wording through an amendment. Originally, the nonbinding resolution criticized UT's "administration." That is now "organizers."

The resolution grew out of last year's controversy over "Sex Week" activities at UT Knoxville. The annual event, sponsored by Sexual Empowerment and Awareness at Tennessee, features a series of activities and lectures highlighting sex education and areas like safe sex.

Last year's event also featured a lesbian bondage expert, drag show and a campuswide hunt for a "golden condom." That triggered an avalanche of criticism from social conservatives in the Republican-dominated Tennessee Legislature.

And it led to legislative hearings scrutinizing various campus groups' funding of events and speakers, accusing public higher education of a left-wing bias.

With lawmakers on the warpath, UT Knoxville quickly dropped any state tax funding for the group's organizers. But students fees and grants remain available. University of Tennessee officials say free speech rights guaranteed by the First Amendment make it difficult to deny funding.

Floyd had a somewhat similar resolution last year. It passed the House overwhelmingly but wasn't heard in the Senate.

Several lawmakers have bills this year that would either change state law to require student fees be distributed proportionally to university organizations based on membership or prohibit the use of institutional revenue to pay for any guest speakers.

Contact staff writer Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com or 615-255-0550.

about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

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