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Tennessee measure honoring gay country star TJ Osborne blocked by Republicans

State. Rep. Jeremy Faison cited a procedural objection, although many believe that his history of supporting anti-LGBTQ legislation is the likelier reason.
T.J. Osborne of musical duo Brothers Osborne at the CMA Music Festival on June 6, 2019 in Nashville, Tenn.
T.J. Osborne of musical duo Brothers Osborne at the CMA Music Festival on June 6, 2019 in Nashville, Tenn.Andrew Wendowski / for ImageSpace/MediaPunch/IPX

A measure in Tennessee to honor Brothers Osborne singer TJ Osborne, who recently came out as gay, has been blocked by Republicans in the state’s House of Representatives, after it had unanimously passed the Senate.

Rep. Jeremy Faison, chair of the House Republican Caucus, is the lawmaker responsible for blocking — and some say effectively killing — the measure. He cited a procedural objection, although many believe that his history of supporting anti-LGBTQ legislation is the likelier reason for him putting the kabosh on the honor.

Osborne’s fellow country star Kacey Musgraves was among those registering her dismay, writing on Twitter: “Massively disappointed in TN House Republicans for blocking my friend @TJOsborne for being honored because HE’S GAY!?”

Brothers Osborne, on their account, tweeted Faison directly about about the snub, suggesting they meet in person.

“We’ve lived in this state for over half of our lives,” the duo said in a tweet. “@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.”

In blocking the bill on the House floor Tuesday, Faison initially said simply, “We have some concerns on this SJR, and I’d like to send it back to naming and designating.” When he was asked to explain what “the source of those concerns” was, the lawmaker said, “It wasn’t heard in committee, and I feel like it needs to be.”

In response, a Democratic legislator, Rep. Antonio Parkinson (D-Memphis), reacted with incredulity, saying, “A lot of SJRs are not heard in committees and we vote on ’em. We voted on a couple of them today, as a matter of fact. … The country music artist, TJ Osborne? We’re talking about a country music singer, y’all. C’mon.”

The Tennessee Holler, a progressive account that shared video of the interchange on the floor, noted that “the resolution is sent to a committee that has closed for the year.”

Maren Morris, who had Brothers Osborne collaborate on “All My Favorite People” on her most recent album, retweeted the Tennessee Holler’s tweet, which said, “@JeremyFaison4TN and the @tnhousegop block a resolution to honor out gay country music star TJ Osborne of the @brothersosborne for no reason other than blatant bigotry and spite. It passed the senate 30-0. So much hate in our state.”

The tabled legislation, Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 609, states that “though T.J. Osborne is not the first country music artist to come out as gay, he is the first and currently only openly gay artist signed to a major country label” and adds that “though it may have been merely 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 become ostracized from a genre they hold dear.”

Much to the chagrin of the sizable gay community in Nashville and the country music industry, Tennessee has become renowned across the country in recent years for legislature like the so-called “anti-gay adoption bill,” which allowed religious foster care and adoption agencies to continue to receive taxpayer funding regardless of discriminating against prospective gay parents. It was signed into law by Republican Gov. Bill Lee in January 2020.

More recently, the bill HB529 has received national scrutiny for requiring school districts to give a month’s notice before any curriculum involving sexual orientation, to allow students whose families object to opt out — a move that some say could lead to the squashing of teaching on subjects as basic as classic English literature.

In April, more than 40 businesses associated with Nashville’s music industry signed an open letter to members of the Tennessee General Assembly, saying a number of bills under consideration were “misguided and would codify discrimination” against LGBTQ Tennesseans.

Among the bills under consideration, besides the school curriculum opt-out bill, are pieces of legislation described as “bathroom bills” or regulating trans athletes in women’s sports. The open letter pointed out that the music industry is responsible for $5.8 billion of the state’s annual economy and 61,000 jobs. Among the dozens of signees proposing a more “open, welcoming, and inclusive environment” and predicting “disastrous” consequences from slate of bills were Apple, Big Loud, Big Machine, CMT, Curb Records, Kobalt Music, Maverick Management, Q Prime South, Sony Music Nashville, Spotify, Third Man Records, Universal Music Group Nashville, Warner Chappell Nashville and Warner Music.

In 2012, Faison courted national controversy when he argued against a cyberbullying bill after a spate of suicides among LGBTQ and other youth, saying that “they did not commit suicide because of somebody bullying them. They committed suicide because they were not instilled the proper principles of where their self-esteem came from at home.”

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