- The Magazine
A bipartisan effort in Tennessee to honor out gay country star T.J. Osborne has failed after it was blocked by a single Republican lawmaker.
Osborne, of Grammy-nominated country duo Brothers Osborne, came out as gay earlier this year and is one of only a few openly gay country stars signed to a major record label.
(Read More: Country singer TJ Osborne comes out as gay)
Lawmakers in Tennessee decided to “commend and honor” Osborne in a symbolic gesture — and a bipartisan one at that.
“T.J. Osborne is not the first country music artist to come out as gay, [but] he is the first and currently only openly gay artist signed to a major country music label,” the resolution stated. “Though it may have merely been a consequence of being true to himself, he has nonetheless become a trailblazer and a symbol of hope for those country music artists and fans alike who may have felt ostracized from a genre they hold dear.”
The measure unanimously passed the Republican-controlled Tennessee Senate and was expected to pass in the state’s House of Representatives.
But that fell apart when Rep. Jeremy Faison, chair of the House Republican Caucus, effectively killed the measure by citing a procedural objection, Variety reports.
Faison, who has a history of anti-LGBTQ statements and actions, offered a cryptic explanation for his bigotry, saying, “We have some concerns.”
He blocked the measure by calling for a vote to send it to a committee that has closed for the year, ensuring it won’t be considered. Asked to explain his actions, Faison said, “It wasn’t heard in committee, and I feel like it needs to be.”
Democratic Rep. Antonio Parkinson wasn’t convinced, noting that the House had voted previously on similar measures without putting them through committee, including “a couple of them today.”
“The country music artist, TJ Osborne?” Parkinson said. “We’re talking about a country music singer, y’all. C’mon.”
While Faison claimed to have concerns about the bipartisan measure, LGBTQ activists, fellow country stars, and Democratic lawmakers accused him of bigotry and homophobia. State Rep. Gloria Johnson tweeted that she was “disgusted with the bigotry in the TN GOP.”
“Last week we honored about 10 country music stars with resolutions,” she wrote. “Tonight the TN GOP refused to hear a resolution honoring a country musician because he is gay.”
State Rep. John Ray Clemmons said he was “saddened by the actions of the [Tennessee] House” in a tweet.
“This body embarrassed itself. Again,” he wrote. “I know @brothersosborne are MD boys, but I’m proud to call them my TN brothers. I’ll stand up for TJ & every other TNean every day of the week.”
Country music star Kacey Musgraves also slammed Faison and House Republicans for their vote, tweeting: ““Massively disappointed in TN House Republicans for blocking my friend @TJOsborne for being honored because HE’S GAY!?”
Brothers Osborne responded to Faison’s actions on their official Twitter account, noting that the brothers, who are originally from Maryland, have “lived in [Tennessee] for over half our lives.”
They pointed out that Faison voted to honor anti-LGBTQ far-right commentator Ben Shapiro “who doesn’t even live here.” (Faison also had no issues honoring conservative commentator Tomi Lahren yesterday, after killing Osborne’s measure.)
“Jeremy, let’s have lunch one day. On us,” Brothers Osborne continued. “Would really like to know more about you as a person.”
We’ve lived in this state for over half of our lives. @JeremyFaison4TN honored Ben Shapiro who doesn’t even live here. Jeremy, let’s have lunch one day. On us. Would really like to know more about you as a person. https://t.co/00w2rdwCec
— Brothers Osborne (@brothersosborne) May 4, 2021
Faison responded, saying he would be “honored to break bread with you.”
— Brothers Osborne (@brothersosborne) May 4, 2021
Faison infamously claimed in 2012 that a spate of LGBTQ youth suicides caused by anti-LGBTQ bullying were actually not caused by bullying, but by the youth lacking “proper principles.”
“We’ve had some horrible things happen in America and in our state, and there’s children that have actually committed suicide, but I will submit to you today that they did not commit suicide because of somebody bullying them,” he said. “They committed suicide because they were not instilled the proper principles of where their self-esteem came from at home.”
In 2019, Faison supported a bill that allowed adoption agencies to refuse to place children with same-sex couples. He said Republicans would “stand with” religious individuals and businesses who wished to discriminate against LGBTQ people.
Tennessee has been increasingly in the news of late due to a series of anti-LGBTQ bills being introduced by Republican lawmakers. Last month, Republicans in the state House passed a bill that would seek to shame trans-friendly businesses by requiring them to post signs advertising their restroom policies and containing insensitive language.
In March, Tennessee’s Republican governor signed into law a ban on transgender youth competing in sports in accordance with their gender identity, one of several Republican-led initiatives being introduced or passed in states nationwide.
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