Tennessee Bars Schoolkids From Holding Hands Because It Could Lead to Sex

Tennessee's House of Representatives Friday passed the controversial "Gateway Sexual Activity Bill" by a vote of 68-23, sending it to Gov. Bill Haslam for signing.

The state Senate overwhelmingly approved the bill earlier this month.

Famously ridiculed by Stephen Colbert last month, the bill bans teachers and "outside groups" from "promoting or condoning" what it calls "gateway sexual activity," which opponents say is far too open to interpretation, and could mean anything from a peck on the cheek to a warm embrace to the casual joining of two hands.

The bill puts the onus on teachers and schools to curb these vague "activities," or risk lawsuits from parents. Additionally, sex ed classes are required to "exclusively and emphatically" promote abstinence.

"We want to come and sit on this floor and be arrogant and be aloof, be naïve, be in denial and say ‘hey we can't tell people what to do,'" Rep. John DeBerry (D-Memphis) told his colleagues prior to Friday's vote. Memphis had a higher than national average teen sex rate, according to a 2009 Youth Risk Behavior study.

But other legislators, like Rep. Mike Stewart (D-Nashville), feel the bill is too hard on teachers. "It seems like a totally new requirement for teachers and it's a totally new way that teachers can now be subject to discipline," he told The Tennessean.

Tennessee's legislature has spent the last few months debating a slew of eyebrow-raising bills, including the recently ratified "teach the controversy" bill, and the national blight known as "Don't Say Gay."

[image via Shutterstock]