Controversial abstinence bill passed by Tennessee House

MEMPHIS, TN - (WMC-TV) -It's a bill that's made Tennessee a laughingstock on a national platform, and Friday a state representative gave a passionate plea supporting a controversial abstinence bill.

The controversial Gateway Sexual Activity Bill passed in the Tennessee House of Representatives Friday.  But exactly what Gateway Sexual Activity is is not clearly defined in the bill that's already been lampooned by comedian Stephen Colbert.

"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,'" says a fired up John DeBerry, a Tennessee State Representative from Memphis.

DeBerry stood in the House and made his points about a bill dealing with abstinence-centered sex education, a Republican-sponsored bill that passed the House.

"We've got departments right now that we spend millions of dollars for doing nothing but taking care of other folks children," says DeBerry.

He believes the bill may change students' behavior. But the bill also allows parents to sue teachers or outside groups for promoting or condoning "gateway sexual activity" by students.

Several Democrats have argued that the bill's definition of "gateway sexual activity" is too vague, and it could cause teachers to be disciplined for not breaking up students for kissing or hugging at a high school dance.

"I think it's probably very dangerous because it takes away local oversight and directs the local board to deal with abstinence only," says Barry Chase of Planned Parenthood.

Chase says the bill will likely lead to more unplanned pregnancies.

"At some point in time we have to say 'change the behavior,'" he argues.

The "Gateway Sexual Activity" Bill is now headed to the Governor's desk.  The bill passed last month in the Senate.

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