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Letter From the Editor

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I should be grateful to the Tennessee legislature for providing me and other columnists around the country with so much fodder for humor. With their, um, endless, er, bottomless, er, enduring fascination with controlling all things gay, our GOP Nashville cats have become a national punch line.

With high unemployment plaguing the state, they've boldly focused on two critical issues confronting Tennessee: the oppression of bullies who wish to taunt gay classmates and the possibility that an elementary school teacher may be forced to answer a question about homosexuality.

The Family Action Council of Tennessee is pushing to get a bill passed that would require that schools' "anti-bullying" policies "not prohibit [students'] expression of religious, philosophical, or political views as long as such expression does not include a threat of physical harm to a student or of damage to a student's property."

This would be good news for Rev. Fred Phelps' Westboro Baptist Church, whose school-age members would now presumably be free to express their religious credo, "God Hates Fags," as long as they didn't, you know, actually hit anybody. Meanwhile, the companion "Don't Say Gay" legislation would prevent Tennessee elementary school teachers from even explaining why certain kids were being bullied.

Do you know of any major corporations that would want to bring their factories or headquarters to a state where bigotry against their gay employees is institutionalized? I don't.

But wait, as they say, there's more! Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey announced in a Commercial Appeal story this week that he wanted to pass legislation that would drug-test "practically everyone getting any kind of government benefits." No doubt, he had in mind poor people getting food stamps and the unemployed, but when a pesky reporter asked if this meant the state would drug-test corporate executives whose companies get tax-paid incentives to locate in Tennessee, Ramsey doubled down. "Fine with me," he said.

Argh. The stupid. It burns. Imagine a few months ago, as Mayor A C Wharton and his team have just completed delicate negotiations with Electrolux, luring the company from Canada. "Oh, there's one more thing," the mayor says. "Just a tiny detail. Nothing really. But state law requires that we drug-test your CEO. It's a mere formality. Just have him pee in this cup, okay? Oh, and, uh, he's not gay, is he?"

That's job creation we can believe in!

Bruce VanWyngarden
brucev@memphisflyer.com

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