The Tennessee Senate has approved a bill that updates the state's abstinence-based sex education law, and it could be interpreted to ban any mention of such innocuous activities as hand-holding and kissing.
The bill warns against "gateway sexual activity." Exactly what that means remains unclear. The actual wording in the bill is:
Instruction of the family life education curriculum may not:
(1) Promote any gateway sexual activity or health message that encourages students to experiment with non-coital sexual activity.
"‘Abstinence’ means from all of these activities, and we want to promote that,” said the bill's sponsor, state Sen. Jack Johnson. “What we do want to communicate to the kids is that the best choice is abstinence.”
The Tennessean reports that the vote in the Senate was 28-1, with state Sen. Beverly Marrero casting the lone dissenting vote.
“I think all of us realize that abstinence is the absolutely only way to prevent any kind of sexually transmitted disease,” she said. “However, I think the young people who need education are the ones who are not always getting our advice.”
A similar bill is expected to pass the House.