Tennessee State Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson Details Bill to Prohibit Gender Transition Treatments for Minors

Feb 8, 2023

Live from Music Row, Wednesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed State Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson in studio to explain Senate Bill one and House Bill one that would prohibit children under the age of 18 from having gender transition procedures whether surgically or medically.

Leahy: In studio, Tennessee State Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson. Good morning, Jack.

Johnson: Good morning, Michael. Good to be with you in studio.

Leahy: In studio! You’re right in the middle of the Tennessee General Assembly and your schedule just worked out so that you’ve got an hour and 15 minutes to hang out with us here in studio. Thank you so much for coming in.

Johnson: I’m happy to do it. I actually stayed in Nashville last night, which I do sometimes during session when it’s an early morning followed by a late night. And so I was already in the neighborhood, let’s say.

Leahy: We just really appreciate it and it’s fun. You and I have been friends for a long time and we have a nice back-and-forth and we’ve know each other and trust each other, but also our listeners enjoy hearing the inside story of what’s going on. Mark Meckler, the head of the Convention of States, a former Tea Party guy, I asked him this question yesterday.

And the question was, there are like 30 states where the Republicans control both houses of the state legislature. And I said, you know, some of those states are really doing great things, some of them not so great things. Can you explain the difference between these states? And he had a really great answer, one word. Leadership.

If you’ve got good conservative leadership that’s working kind of cooperatively with each other, then you can get good conservative things done. And I have to tell you, just looking at this from afar, often the Tennessee General Assembly, they’ll meet and it’s like drama.

Somebody is mad at somebody else and yelling about this bill, yelling about that. That’s a democratic process, I have to tell you. Not that the topics aren’t interesting, but there’s been such little controversy so far, it’s been kind of boring, Jack. (Laughter)

Johnson: We’re not getting enough material for your show as substantively from issues it is. But usually, you have somebody yelling and railing at the moon and we’d like to kind of keep that little interpersonal drama going.

Leahy: But there you are. You’ve got the lieutenant governor, Randy McNally. You’re the state Senate majority leader. And then you’ve got the Speaker of the House Cameron Sexton and the House Majority Leader, William Lamberth. It’s a well-running machine from what I can tell.

Johnson: Well, it is. And Michael, you know this, and most of your listeners do, but we got a lot of new people, right, that have moved in. And I like to remind folks that have just moved in. Republicans have only controlled this state for 12 years.

It was January of 2011, the first time since the Civil War that Republicans had the governor’s office, the State House, and the State Senate. And fortunately, I’ve had a front-row seat to making history as a member of the General Assembly. And so my attitude and I think the attitude of many of my colleagues who lived in the state as you did under Democratic control for many, many years, when we got that control, it was not lost on us that, hey, we need to do something with this.

You don’t know how long you’re going to have it. So let’s make as much progress as we can. And I’m proud to say that we’ve talked about many times in that very short period of time, barely over a decade, we’ve made Tennessee, I believe, the most conservative state in the nation. We’re the least taxed and the least indebted.

Our pension plan is fully funded. We’re the safest place in the world to be an unborn child. I could go on and on about the things we’re doing, and that’s no different this year, this legislative session when you look at all the things we’re trying to tackle.

Leahy: Let’s talk about those things. A couple of important bills. We talked to State Representative Chris Todd.

Johnson: Yes. I heard him. He did a great job.

Leahy: About the bill that would basically prohibit a certain kind of conduct at, it’s called the Drag Queen Show, but it’s really for any kind of conduct that would either show some naked skin or mimic sex acts in front of children and that it would be first, a misdemeanor, and then on the second, offensive felony for the performer.

So that’s moving forward. Also, you’ve got this bill to stop transgender mutilation. Big bill. Tell us about that bill and where it stands right now in the Tennessee General Assembly.

Johnson: Sure. So that is SB1 and HB1. My good friend. Your good friend House Majority Leader William Lamberth is the sponsor in the House. And I’ve taken it all the way through the committee process in the Senate, and it is ready to go to the floor, could be on the floor for a final vote in the Senate on Monday evening. We’ll see where it ends up getting calendared, but certainly, I suspect next week. And that bill and then the adult entertainment bill is what I’ve tried to start calling it now.

Leahy: You’re right, that’s more accurate to describe. It’s not the drag queen bill, it’s the adult entertainment bill. It certainly was brought to attention because of some of these horrendous videos that have surfaced from places in Tennessee as well as other places. There was one down there in Chattanooga.

Johnson: There was one there where you had blatantly sexual activity taking place at a so called family friendly drag show. And that’s what brought it to our attention. But the bill specifically says you just can’t do these types of sexually explicit things in front of kids. We very heavily regulate that type of entertainment when it takes place in adult-oriented establishments.

And then SB1, which just says we’re not going to do anything to a child based on their sexual identity or gender dysphoria that’s irreversible. We’re not going to do that medicinally or surgically. When they turn 18, that’s the age of maturity in the state of Tennessee, they can do what they want, but we’re going to protect these kids.

We’re going to love them. We’re going to get them the help they need. We’ve had lots of testimony from health experts relative to the mental illness that plagues some of these people and some of the other issues that they’re dealing with. And we want to love them. We want to help them get the help they need.

Many will get through this difficult time by the time they reach adulthood or early adulthood. And if not, and they turn eight on their 18th birthday, they want to schedule an appointment to go in and have their body modified or altered or start taking hormones or things that will change their body permanently, that’s a decision that needs to be made by an adult. This is common sense.

Leahy: I think so.

Johnson: I think it is.

Leahy: Everybody in our listening audience is saying, well, yeah, where’s the controversy? This just makes common sense.

Johnson: Unfortunately, though, there are some out there who believe differently.

Leahy: (Chuckles) We’ll get to that in a minute. But tell us where this bill is and how it’s going to move through the system you talked about it coming before the state Senate for a floor vote. And for our listeners, getting a bill for a floor vote, that’s a big deal.

Johnson: It is a big deal. Most of the work done on legislation is done in committees. The vast majority, not everything, but the vast majority of bills that make it to the floor will pass and pass overwhelmingly. So far, SB1, and HB1, dealing with these transgender surgeries on minors, we’ve had two votes in the Senate. They were both party-line votes.

It was in the Health and Welfare Committee last week and passed out seven to one. There was only one Democrat on the committee, and then I had it in the Judiciary Committee yesterday, and the vote was seven-two. Two Democrats voted against it.

Listen to today’s show highlights, including this interview:


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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to The Tennessee Star Reporwith Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.