The Country Music Association (CMA) Awards witnessed a milestone on November 10 when out country singer TJ Osborne shared a loving kiss with his boyfriend, Abi Ventura, after winning an award.
Back in February, Osborne—who with his brother John perform as the country duo Brothers Osborne—became the first mainstream country singer to publicly come out as gay in the prime of his career while signed to a major country music label.
His coming out was significant as a country artist where the genre is deeply rooted in conservatism and Christianity.
Wednesday's celebratory night in which the Brothers Osborne won for Vocal Duo of the Year was particularly made special since the CMAs marked Osborne's first public outing with his beau.
When accepting the award, Osborne told the audience:
"It's been a crazy roller coaster of a year for us in so many ways, especially for me emotionally."
"And to have you all support me, it really does feel like love wins tonight. Thank you."
The audience rose to their feet after his speech.
Social media users also gushed over the triumphant kiss shared between the two men.
As Osborne left the stage, his brother jumped in and told the audience to "Give this boy a round of applause," before adding:
"We love this genre, we love the people, we love all of you so much."
The ceremony included a performance of the duo's song, "Younger Me," in which Osborne wrote about his struggles coming to terms with his sexuality and learning to embrace it as a younger gay man.
"This is an important message that I wish I could tell my younger self," he told the Associated Press.
In May of this year, homophobic Republicans in Tennessee's House of Representatives blocked a measure that would have honored Osborne.
The Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 609 read:
"Though T.J. Osborne is not the first country music artist to come out as gay, he is the first and currently only openly gay artist signed to a major country music label.
The measure added:
"Though it may have been merely a consequence of being true to himself, he has nonetheless become a trailblazer and a symbol of hope for those country music artists and fans alike who may have become ostracized from a genre they hold dear."
Although Republican Representative Jeremy Faison—who is the chair of the state's House Republican Caucus—cited a "procedural objection," many believed the conservative lawmaker's reason for "effectively killing" the measure was because of his long history of supporting anti-LGBTQ+ legislation was the real reason for blocking the motion.
In an interview with TIME magazine, Osborne, who knew he was gay at a young age and had already been out to his family and close friends, said he didn't think coming out publicly would have gotten the firestorm attention in the media the way it has.
"I'm very comfortable being gay. I find myself being guarded for not wanting to talk about something that I personally don't have a problem with."
"That feels so strange."