Tennessee State Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) suddenly pulled his sponsorship of the so-called "Turn the Gays Away" bill on Thursday after the controversial proposal was subject to national attention.
Sen. Kelsey filed the Religious Liberties Act last week, and the gay and lesbian community quickly responded. The "Turn the Gays Away" bill was characterized as an act that would allow businesses to turn away same sex couples.
"I've heard many mixed reviews from the constituents regarding protecting religious freedoms in this state, so I've decided not to sponsor the legislation," Sen. Kelsey told FOX13 News.
Tennessee Senate Bill 2566 did not die when Sen. Kelsey pulled sponsorship. It found a new Senate sponsor out of East Tennessee and is moving forward. Sen. Kelsey said he's undecided if he'll support the bill.
This FOX13 News story on the bill went viral, and became the number one story on myFOXmemphis.com, the most popular of 2014.
Pop singer Lance Bass even tweeted at Sen. Kelsey. Bass' tweet was shared 27 times and helped the story into nationwide viral status.
"This is something that puts Memphis is in a very bad light around the country because it makes us look Neanderthal," said U.S. Congressman Steve Cohen (D-9th District).
Memphis chef Kelly English also offered to host a fundraiser to anyone who would run against Sen. Kelsey's opponent in the next election.
"I just couldn't believe that it's 2014 and someone's actually thinking that way, but trying to bring legislation to our state about that kind of thing," Chef English said.
The Religious Freedom Act is moving forward in Nashville and is scheduled for the committee Sen. Kelsey chairs. He said he will only support the bill if it's amended.
"I think the bill should be clarified to be sure it doesn't regard every day uses of restaurants, facilities, or hospitals or anything like that," Sen. Kelsey said.
If for religious reasons, a singer doesn't want to perform in a same sex wedding ceremony, or conversely doesn't want to perform a ceremony in a Catholic church because it doesn't support gay unions, the singer should be protected in both instances, Sen. Kelsey added.
"It would have to protect the religious ideals of those who support same sex marriage and those who oppose same sex marriage," Sen. Kelsey said.
Jonathan Cole with the Tennessee Equality Project told FOX13 News the bill would be unacceptable even with an amendment because for-profit businesses should not be able to refuse service to anyone based on their class or status.
A new bill was recently introduced in the Tennessee State Legislature that, if passed, would allow people and businesses to refuse to provide goods and services to homosexuals.
It was filed by State Sen. Brian Kelsey, who represents Memphis and Germantown.
DOWNLOAD: Read Tennessee Senate Bill 2566
The bill notes that businesses can refuse services and goods only if it furthers a civil union, domestic partnership, or same-sex marriage. The person or business would just have to say it was against their religion. For example, if a same-sex couple wanted a cake for their wedding reception, a bakery could refuse to cater to them.
Jonathan Cole of the Tennessee Equality Project says the bill is making discrimination legal.
"It's bad for business," Cole said. "It's bad for attracting talent that would be offered a job to come and work for a corporation here in Tennessee. When they see bills like this capturing the headlines, it really reflects poorly on the state."
The TEP is handing out stickers to businesses that say "Equality Means Business".
The bill was introduced in the House and Senate, but no votes have been taken yet.
Kelsey was unavailable for an interview with FOX13 News.
We want to know what you think: Does this promote discrimination?
© 2020 Cox Media Group