(New York, NY) — A bill under consideration by the Tennessee legislature today seeks to prohibit public schools from adopting or using any textbooks or instructional materials that “promote, normalize, support, or address lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, or transgender issues or lifestyles.” The bill comes amid a wave of legislative efforts to stymie equity for the LGBTQIA+ community across the nation. In Tennessee alone, another bill under consideration would allow parents to opt out of instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity; a law signed last week enacts restrictions for transgender student athletes; and a law passed in January permits adoption agencies to deny services to same-sex couples.

“This bill is an appalling assault on freedom of expression at its most basic level—the freedom to represent the truth of human existence through the written word, and to gain empathy and understanding by learning one another’s stories,” said Jonathan Friedman, director of free expression and education at PEN America. “Such an effort to silence the voices and erase the experiences of LGBTQIA+ individuals is inimical not only to the field of education, but to the very notion of a democracy in which all people are considered equal.

“Supporters of the bill believe it is possible to purge the public school curriculum of all LGBTQIA+ voices, individuals, and stories. Even setting aside the deeply disturbing and discriminatory nature of such impulses, the scope of this proposed ban would be, simply, boundless. If passed, the bill stands to impoverish the teaching of all academic subjects—Shakespeare, Greek philosophy, and American scientific and technological innovation, to name just a few. It is our profound hope that this bill will not move forward. Against a backdrop of other repressive measures being introduced and passed in Tennessee and across the nation, it should not be viewed as an idle threat, and must be vehemently opposed.”