Gov’s Signature on ‘Gateway Sexual Activity’ Gets National Note

Gov. Bill Haslam has signed into law the “gateway sexual activity bill, an event that drew some national media attention. Here’s a chunk of the MSNBC report:
Tennessee teachers can no longer condone so-called “gateway sexual activity” such as touching genitals under a new law that critics say is too vague and could hamper discussion about safe sexual behavior.
Gov. Bill Haslam’s office Friday confirmed to Reuters that Haslam had signed the bill, which stirred up controversy nationwide and even was lampooned by comedian Stephen Colbert.
“Kissing and hugging are the last stop before reaching Groin Central Station, so it’s important to ban all the things that lead to the things that lead to sex,” he said on the “Colbert Report” television show.
But proponents say the new law helps define the existing abstinence-only sex-education policy.
Under the law, Tennessee teachers could be disciplined and speakers from outside groups like Planned Parenthood could face fines of up to $500 for promoting or condoning “gateway sexual activities.”
….David Fowler, president of the Family Action Council of Tennessee, which pushed the bill, told Reuters the law does not ban kissing or holding hands from discussion in sex education classes. But he said it addresses the touching of certain “gateway body parts,” including genitals, buttocks, breasts and the inner thigh.
On Thursday, State Rep. Jon Lundberg told NBC station WCYB-TV that a focus on abstinence is needed because Tennessee has the seventh-highest teen birth rate in the nation and the 11th-highest HIV infection rate in the nation.
“The shift is that the main core needs to be an abstinence-based approach. Not, ‘hey, I know everybody’s having sex, so when you have sex do this, do this, [and] do this.’ That’s not it,'” Lundberg told the station.
,,,Opponents, which include Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee and the state teachers’ union, say that before they can begin fighting the new law, they have to be able to figure it out. They worry that discussion of sexual behavior could be interpreted as condoning it.
“The very ambiguous language in this bill certainly puts teachers in a very difficult situation” when it comes to knowing what to teach, said Jerry Winters, spokesman for the Tennessee Education Association
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