Bill banning textbooks that 'support' LGBTQ issues advances

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - House Republicans in Tennessee advanced legislation on Tuesday that would ban public schools from using textbooks or materials that "promote, normalize, support or address LGBT issues or lifestyles."

Critics argue the bill is similar to a measure that Florida's Republican-dominated legislature passed just hours earlier, which would forbid instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade.

The Tennessee version would apply to all K-12 public schools. A House panel on Tuesday approved sending it it to the full chamber for a vote. The bill has not yet made much progress in Senate.

"I think most parents would like the sexuality of our children to be left to our parents in the home and not part of a curriculum," said Republican Rep. Bruce Griffey, the bill's sponsor. "And the vast number of parents also feel like materials that promote LGBTQ issues and lifestyles that should be subject to the same restrictions and limitation that there are on religious teachings that are not allowed in our schools."

Since being elected to the House in 2018, Griffey has not had much political sway inside the GOP-dominated Statehouse. He has become known for introducing some of the more attention-grabbing contentious proposals each legislative session, but they rarely advance.

Nevertheless, Republicans on the House Finance, Ways and Means Committee advanced the bill, with one GOP member thanking Griffey for sponsoring the bills.

According to the legislation, the state's Textbook and Instructional Materials Quality Commission would be banned from recommending textbooks and instructional materials that "promote, normalize, support, or address lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, or transgender (LGBT) issues or lifestyles" that would be used in public schools. If approved, the measure would apply to textbooks approved by the commission after July 1.

"What you're saying to them and to the rest of us is that that 'We don't want to know that you're here. We don't want our children to know that you even exist,'" said Democratic Rep. Larry Miller. "How unamerican ... how embarrassing that is."

Republican Gov. Bill Lee has not publicly weighed in on the legislation, but the governor has never vetoed a bill while in office.