After passing unanimously through the Tennessee state Senate, District 11 Representative Jeremy Faison, employed his status of Republican Caucus Chairman to block a resolution honoring T.J. Osborne of the award-winning country duo Brothers Osborne. On May 4, the symbolic gesture towards Osborne, who came out as gay earlier this year, was diminished when Faison motioned to send the bill back to the House Naming and Designating Committee. Speaking on behalf of the GOP he stated, “we have some concerns.”
With the help of 63 votes from House Republicans, the motion passed.
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.”
By sending it back to the committee—that has already adjourned for this legislative session—the resolution honoring Osborne lies dormant in the Tennessee House of Representatives.
“We’ve lived in this state for over half of our lives,” Brothers Osborne shared on social media. Tagging Rep. Faison, they stated Faison previously honored conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, who “doesn’t even live here.”
Similar resolutions passed this session, including Shapiro and Candace Owens, suggest this type of bill typically passes seamlessly, and is rarely sent to committees for further discussion. Equality advocates are calling the actions of GOP House members discriminatory toward the LGBTQ community, citing “blatant bigotry” and “spite.”
District 55 Representative, Ray Clemmons, echoes this sentiment on social media. As a co-sponsor of the blocked bill, he feels “saddened” by the events of May 4 after attempting to honor the musician. Clemmons wrote, “This body embarrassed itself. Again. I know [Brothers Osborne] are MD boys, but I’m proud to call them my TN brothers.” He adds, “I’ll stand up for TJ & every other TNean everyday of the week.”
Osborne made his first public statement, coming out as gay to Time Magazine on February 3. Since then, the musician and his brother have expressed humbling gratitude for the positive response and support from the country music community. In an interview with CBS This Morning, acknowledged the difficulty of his experience, even with the support of friends and family.
“But once I finally came out, I didn’t really understand the magnitude of how much people cared about me and loved me and supported me,” the country star told the outlet. “Had I known that the whole time, I would have done it probably a long time ago and saved myself a lot of strife.”
Osborne added, “Anyone out there, if you’re dealing with that, there’s people that love you and people that support you a lot. Feel encouraged by that.”
Following the motion, Brothers Osborne wielded the irony of this seemingly targeted political move, using it as an opportunity to gain some understanding. In their May 4 post, they offered, “Jeremy, let’s have lunch one day. On us. Would really like to know more about you as a person.” Faison responded, “I would be honored to break bread with you.”
The duo told Faison they would message him directly, suggesting they will make plans to sit down with the Representative. In the meantime, the actions sparked outrage from friends and industry peers. Maren Morris—who released her collaborative track with the duo, “All My Favorite People” on her 2019 album, GIRL—retweeted The Tennessee Holler’s post of the House debate, stating, “So much hate in our state.”
Kacey Musgraves shared she is, “Massively disappointed in TN House Republicans for blocking my friend [TJ] for being honored because HE’S GAY!?” —further bolstering community support for Osborne after his honorary resolution was halted.