A Republican state senator in Tennessee has withdrawn a bill that sought to allow businesses and individuals to discriminate against gays.

At a Senate hearing Tuesday on the measure, Senator Mike Bell, who took over as lead sponsor of the legislation last week, announced that the bill, dubbed the “Turn the Gays Away” bill, was not needed and pulled it from consideration.

“I'm convinced that current Tennessee law protects our business owners from the type of lawsuit harassment we've seen in other states,” Bell said during the meeting, a reference to an existing state law that allows business owners to refuse service to customers whose conduct they deem offensive.

In a statement, Rep. Bill Dunn, the measure's Republican sponsor in the House, agreed with Bell.

“I agree with Sen. Bell's analysis that presently Tennesseans cannot be forced to needlessly participate in activities that violate their sincere, constitutionally protected, religious beliefs,” Dunn said. “Therefore his action today was understandable and makes perfect sense.”

The bill sought to permit “persons and religious or denominational organizations” to refuse to provide “services or goods in furtherance of a civil union, domestic partnership, or marriage not recognized by the Tennessee Constitution.”

A constitutional amendment banning gay marriage was overwhelmingly (81%) approved by voters in 2006.

LGBT rights advocate the Tennessee Equality Project organized a protest involving dozens of demonstrators attending the hearing dressed in red.

“They think they found a solution for the time being, and we'll see how that plays out over the next year,” Chris Sanders, the group's executive director, told The Tennessean. “They may be able to turn individuals away. What we're glad of is the state didn't step in and establish a class of people against whom you could discriminate.”