The state politician responsible for Tennessee's controversial and recently revived "Don't Say Gay" bill apparently responded to some of his critics Monday morning, debating them in the comments section of the Knoxville News Sentinel.
Republican state Sen. Stacey Campfield's bill, nicknamed the "Don't Say Gay" bill, would "prohibit teachers from discussing of any sexuality except heterosexuality in grades K-8."
The bill was allowed to die at the end of last year, but was recently re-filed by Campfield, with an added provision that advocates say could be interpreted as forcing school authorities to inform parents if their child is gay.
On Monday, Knoxville resident Mary L. Wilson's letter to the editor, entitled "Questions for Campfield," was published on the Knoxville News Sentinel's website. Wilson asked the senator, in part:
Why are you intent on publicly hurting our children, like making any child in a low-income family responsible for their grades in public school by tying them to aid their family receives? You never answered this question on MSNBC. I am sure it was not asked on FOX News.
Perhaps to everyone's surprise, it appears Campfield responded to Wilson, posting in the comments section at about 6:30 a.m. under the name "The_Sen":
Sadly, what is portrayed in the media or by those with an agenda is not always the truthful or the full story. Here is the actual wording of the bill that some have had questions with. Again we are not talking about adults or even young adults. We are talking about little children...
After his initial response, dozens of questions went mostly unanswered by the senator until one appeared to strike a nerve.
User "StaceyIsAnEffeminateName" asked Campfield if he would consider adding language to the bill that "clearly states this protective measure of yours can't be used to unduly persecute homosexuality, which certainly isn't considered "harmful" as far as activities are concerned."
At 9:17 a.m., Campfield appeared to respond:
Just so I have this straight, you want me to make it so if a school catches one 12 year old boy providing unprotected sex in the bathroom to five other boys that activity would not be reported to the parents right?
That comment started its own firestorm and tempers on both sides flared. User "MesoVertex" wrote, "You just stepped out of line with that comment. Just because a child is homosexual does not mean that he or she is having sex with everyone or everything. Your portrayal of homosexual people is a lie and outright slander."
As of 3:00 p.m., the debate was still going.
As criticism of the bill continues to mount, Campfield has become increasingly defensive. For example, in response to a critical email from constituent Telisha Arguelles Cobb last week, Campfield wrote:
You seem to have some serious, deep anger issues. Have you ever thought about therapy? I hear they are doing some wonderful things with medications these days.
Yours in service,
Sen. Stacey Campfield
Speaking to USA Today on Jan. 31, Campfield said the bill does not seek to single out anyone's sexual identity.
"Being gay is not a dangerous activity," he said. "The act of homosexuality is very dangerous to someone's health and safety."
On Feb. 1, Campfield called into TMZ Live and gave several soundbites. He called LGBT advocates "the biggest bullies in the world" and said he wished the gay community would "quit trying to ram it down everybody's throats... and quit pushing it on everyone. Just leave us alone."