Tennessee anti-LGBTQ lawmaker’s torrid affair with his cousin revealed

Tennessee GOP state representative Joey Hensley
Tennessee GOP state representative Joey Hensley Photo: screenshot

One would think the divorce case involving the vice mayor of tiny Hohenwald, Tenn. and his wife would not make headlines beyond the 3,700 people who swap gossip at the Junkyard Dog Steakhouse and Big John’s Bar-B-Q. But it is, now that it’s a matter of record that Lori Barber is leaving her husband for State Senator Joey Hensley, one of the staunchest opponents of LGBTQ rights in the Volunteer State.

And Hensley — who in 2012 declared he was a “family values” Republican — has more in common with his married lover than just their illicit affair. A lot more.

Nashville Scene reports court documents identify Hensley, who is a doctor in private practice, as Barber’s second cousin.

And Hensley is her employer; she works as a nurse in his office.

And he is her doctor; records show Dr. Hensley is prolific at writing prescriptions for pain medication for her.

Why is this important, other than to fuel curiosity and more gossip leading up to the next family reunion? Because Hensley has spent much of his other career, as a state senator, claiming a moral high ground in his opposition to individuals and families who identify as LGBTQ.

The “Don’t Say Gay” bill he sponsored in 2012 died before coming to a vote. This year he is sponsoring legislation to make babies born via artificial insemination illegitimate.

As Out and About Nashville reported, if HB1406 passes, any individual who did not contribute to the conception of a child — such as a same-sex spouse — would only be able to become a legal guardian of that child by filing for a second-parent adoption. That, according to Salon, could cost as much as $6,500.

So what does Hensley say about all this? He reportedly refused to testify in the divorce case, using the excuse that he is otherwise unavailable as “a member of the general assembly while in session,” as well as claiming doctor-patient privilege.

Dr. Hensley may not have to worry about that conflict soon, as his affair reportedly violated the American Medical Association code of ethics and state board guidelines, potentially endangering his license to practice medicine.

Editor’s note: the original copy was updated to more accurately reflect the potential impact of HB1406, which would not only affect a spouse who did not give birth to a child, but any individual who did not contribute to the conception of a child. 

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