NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The issue of children’s transgender therapy has polarized politicians in Tennessee with Republicans for the bill and Democrats against it.

It has led to several tense exchanges between lawmakers, like this one between Rep. Bo Mitchell (D-Nashville) and House Majority Leader William Lamberth (R-Portland) in the House Health Subcommittee Tuesday:

  • Mitchell: “He just called me sexist. Could (Leader Lamberth) please explain to the committee what gynecomastia is? Do you know what that is?”
  • Lamberth: “So, I didn’t call you sexist sir, your comments did.”
  • Mitchell: “Okay, well, you tell the committee what that is and I’m going to prove you wrong.”
  • Lamberth: “Sir, I’m not going to define that. If you have a question about the bill, I’d be happy to answer that.”
  • Chairman David Hawk (R-Greeneville): “Gentlemen, you’ve got about 30 seconds and we’re going to shut this down.”

Wednesday afternoon, lawmakers advanced the bill to ban transgender youth health care through the Senate Health and Welfare Committee.

“The bill is not to punish anybody,” Sen. Joey Hensley (R-Hohenwald) said. “It’s to protect children from having surgeries and treatments that can be detrimental or can have long-lasting effects.”

Hensley and Sen. Jeff Yarbro (D-Nashville) are both part of the Health and Welfare Committee.

“To be pushing what is obviously a discriminatory and cultural-war-provoking issue is not going to help anybody,” Yarbro said of the bill.

He echoed the sentiment of several other Democratic lawmakers outside the committee, saying there are far more pressing issues facing Tennesseans than bills banning transgender youth health care.

“We have hundreds of kids who have been adjudicated – found by a judge to be victims of abuse and neglect – and the legislature has sat by and done mighty little while they’ve been sleeping in buildings and not getting the care that they need,” Yarbro said. “But here we are with this elaborate circus.”

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Hensley argued separately the bill is not about attacking the LGBTQ+ community but instead about protecting children.

“The state does have an obligation to protect children. We protect children in other circumstances,” he said. “We don’t let children buy cigarettes or buy alcohol, even if a parent approves it.”

In the House Health Subcommittee Tuesday, Republicans punched back after months of Democrats chastising the bill.

“Our preacher would say, ‘if you don’t know what you are, boy or girl, male or female, just go in the bathroom and take your clothes off and look in the mirror,” Rep. Paul Sherrell (R-Sparta) said. “You’ll find out what you are.’”

The bill now heads to the Senate Judiciary Committee and the House Health Committee.

Hundreds of bills will be up for debate during the 113th General Assembly. Tennessee lawmakers shared their thoughts on some of the major issues up for discussion at this year’s legislative session.

What lawmakers had to say about: Abortion Ban Clarification | Marijuana Reform | Transgender Therapy and LGBTQ+ Rights | Dept. of Children’s Services | Education | Crime/Public Safety | More

You can also find daily coverage from the session here.