Conservative GOP Christian Tennessee state Rep. Bill Sanderson resigned on Wednesday, citing a son-in-law in poor health and the demands of his business, the Tennessean reported.
But most believe it was for another reason reported elsewhere: that Grindr messages and nude photos uncovered by journalists have exposed the fact that he’s a closeted hypocrite with a gay son who has voted against every LGBTQ issue that has come before him.
Writes political reporter Cari Wade Gervin: ‘His (now-deleted) campaign Facebook page describes Sanderson as a “Family Man, Small Business Man, Farmer, Public Servant” whose favorite activities include running, working in the yard and “spending time with my dear wife, Marjie (the person with the best heart of anyone I have ever, ever met).” (Sanderson has been married to Marjie since the fall of 2012. He has three grown children with his first wife, Valerie; they divorced in 2011.) His voting record during his four and a half sessions on the hill back up his conservative bonafides. Sanderson introduced legislation to mandate “In God We Trust” on state license plates. He has been a co-sponsor of some of the most extreme anti-abortion legislation, including this year’s heartbill bill (which passed the House but was delayed in the Senate until next year). In 2018, Sanderson, then the chair of the State Government Subcommittee, was widely criticized for helping kill a resolution denouncing Neo-Nazis and opposing a bill to outlaw chain gangs, saying such work was not dehumanizing to prisoners. And Sanderson has voted in support of almost every anti-LGBT bill that has made it to the House floor. Despite having a gay son with a longterm partner. Despite sending sexually explicit messages and pictures to men almost 40 years his junior.’
Sanderson has voted against transgender bathroom bills that would have given access to bathrooms to trans students, blasted the SCOTUS marriage ruling, voted to support allowing adoption agencies to discriminate against gay couples, supported a bill allowing therapists to discriminate against gay people, and voted agaisnt allowing municipalities in Tennessee to enact LGBT nondiscrimination ordinances.
Whatever the private reality of Sanderson’s marriage, his public face is extremely at odds with the Grindr and text messages I reviewed. They all include pictures of Sanderson, including one of his naked torso and genitals. That very explicit picture has his face cropped out of it, but Sanderson is wearing the same watch in other photos. (He says the nude photo is faked, and the other pictures were stolen from his Facebook account.)
The Grindr messages that I reviewed, as in the ones posted by The Dirty, instruct the men to text him at a phone number with a 731 area code. If you Google that number, you’ll find page after page connecting that number to either the White Squirrel Winery — which Sanderson owns — or sites where it is listed as Sanderson’s cell number. The texts I saw were sent by the same number. It is the same number I used to call Sanderson for comment on this story and have texted him on since. (Again, he claims that the texts were faked.)
Those texts, in addition to including the nude photo, are frequently explicit in terms of discussing sexual activity. I’m not going to quote from the explicit parts, as Sanderson (allegedly) exchanged them with a reasonable expectation of privacy. But I will note that in his 2013 Grindr profile, which could be seen by anyone using the app, he writes, “I’ve seen a lot and done a lot, but I really haven’t had a connection with a guy and I have a burning desire to have that relationship. I like down and dirty guy to guy play too! So, I guess you might say, nothing will be held back …” (Sanderson says he did not write this.)
Read all of Gervin’s report here. Sanderson denies everything in it.