Brothers Osborne singer TJ Osborne, who recently came out as gay, was on track to be honored by the Tennessee government as “the first openly gay artist signed to a major country music label” after a measure unanimously passed the Senate. Now, he’s being denied that opportunity. The state’s House of Representatives blocked the measure on Tuesday after a procedural objection by longtime anti-LGBTQ Rep. Jeremy Faison, the chair of the House Republican Caucus.
The tabled legislation, Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 609, would act as a congratulations of sorts that signified the state supporting his status. “Though TJ 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,” the measure reads. “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.”
Upon rejecting the bill on the House floor, Faison said, “We have some concerns on this SJR, and I’d like to send it back to naming and designating.” When asked to explain his reasoning, especially after it passed in the Senate with a 30-0 vote, Faison said, “It wasn’t heard in the committee and I feel like it needs to be.” For the record, the legislation is only a page and a half (double spaced!) long.
Democratic Rep. Antonio Parkinson responded with a guffaw and called Faison out for his shady objection. “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!” said Parkinson. “The country music artist, TJ Osborne? We’re talking about a country music singer, y’all. Come on.”
Faison has been vocal about his anti-LGBTQ beliefs for a long time. Back in 2012, he argued against a cyberbullying bill meant to decrease the alarming number of suicides among LGBTQ youth, saying, “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.” The best way to describe someone who’s indifferent towards kids killing themselves, especially ones who are made to feel unaccepted and hated, is an absolute asshole.
Numerous figures in Tennessee’s local scene and the country music world at large have expressed their outrage at Osborne being denied the honor, ranging from Maren Morris to Jason Isbell. “Massively disappointed in TN House Republicans for blocking my friend @TJOsborne for being honored because HE’S GAY!?” said Kacey Musgraves in a tweet. “Is it fair to TJ to use his incredibly beautiful story as a device to prove how hateful some of our lawmakers are?” added Isbell.
After learning that the measure was blocked, Brothers Osborne reached out to Faison directly, including on social media, to question why it didn’t move forward. “We’ve lived in this state for over half of our lives,” the duo tweeted. “@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.” Faison responded with one sentence saying he would like to “break bread” with them.
Unfortunately, this is just the latest in a string of anti-LGBTQ efforts made by the local government in Tennessee. As Variety points out, the state has been at the center of nationwide controversy in recent years for signing the so-called “anti-gay adoption bill” into law last year, introducing bill HB529 that will require school districts to give a month’s notice when introducing curriculum that involves sexual orientation, and numerous pieces of legislation aimed at regulating trans athletes in women’s sports.
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
— K A C E Y (@KaceyMusgraves) May 4, 2021
Of course I support @brothersosborne– This bigotry is unconscionable, but did we know it would go this way? How can we still be surprised by the awful @tngop? Is it fair to TJ to use his incredibly beautiful story as a device to prove how hateful some of our lawmakers are? https://t.co/z9IIuMIoe0
— Jason Isbell (@JasonIsbell) May 4, 2021