published Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

Tennessee state House condemns University of Tennessee's 'Sex Week'

  • photo
    Rep. Richard Floyd, R-Chattanooga, reads documents during a House floor session In Nashville on Thursday. The chamber later passed a bill to allow local governments to hold referendums on allowing supermarkets and convenience stores to sell wine. Floyd was among the members voting against the bill.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

NASHVILLE — Following a spirited debate about the First Amendment, the state House on Monday approved a nonbinding resolution condemning "Sex Week" festivities at the University of Tennessee's Knoxville campus.

"I support First Amendment rights," said Rep. Richard Floyd, R-Chattanooga, the measure's sponsor. "You don't have a right to drag the UTK brand" and its graduates, students and others "through the mud."

The resolution passed on a 69-17 vote. The resolution now moves to the Senate.

Sex Week, which begins Sunday, is student-led and includes events ranging from an aphrodisiac cooking class to sexual assault prevention and a drag show.

Floyd and other Republicans charged the event sets a bad tone, a furor that began last year when the campus held it's first Sex Week.

But Rep. Joe Armstrong, D-Knoxville, whose district includes the UT campus, said he thinks its the critics who are "setting a bad precedent. If we support our Constitution, I truly believe the intent of this resolution goes against our First Amendment rights."

While organizers of Sex Week, which is funded through student fees after UT leaders dropped state tax support following last year's flap, say the event is intended to educate students, some lawmakers objected to the messages being sent to students.

"I'm going to send my 17-year-old daughter up there next year," Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, said. "What kind of people [who] are up there are doing this stuff?"

Defenders of the students said they're adults.

"I represent the University of Tennessee, and I've had numerous students that object to the intervention of the legislature in their campus disputes," Armstrong said.

But Republicans said parents are the ones who are paying for the program through the student activity fees many of them pay.

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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