Metro Weekly

Musicians and writers stand with LGBT community amid wave of anti-gay bills

Bruce Springsteen (Photo via Instagram), Bryan Adams (Photo via Facebook), Miley Cyrus (Photo via Instagram), and Chely Wright (Photo via Facebook).

Bruce Springsteen (Photo via Instagram), Bryan Adams (Photo via Facebook), Miley Cyrus (Photo via Instagram), and Chely Wright (Photo via Facebook).

With the passage of anti-LGBT laws, North Carolina, Mississippi and Tennessee have come under fire from the business community, who is trying to use its influence and the threat of economic sanctions to hit these states in the pocketbook. But the nation’s artistic community is using its own influence to deal an equally large wallop to states that condone discrimination.

One of the most vocal groups on record as opposing various anti-equality laws is the musical community. Last week, Bruce Springsteen cancelled a concert in Greensboro, N.C., offering to refund the nearly 15,000 tickets that had been purchased by North Carolinians. In a statement, Springsteen said he wanted to stand in solidarity with the LGBT community, which was targeted by the recent signing into law of HB 2. That bill repeals pro-LGBT rights ordinances in the state and restricts transgender people to using only the restroom that corresponds to their biological sex at birth. 

“To my mind, it’s an attempt by people who cannot stand the progress our country has made in recognizing the human rights of all of our citizens to overturn that progress,” Springsteen said. “Taking all of this into account, I feel that this is a time for me and the band to show solidarity for those freedom fighters. … Some things are more important than a rock show, and this fight against prejudice and bigotry — which is happening as I write — is one of them.”

Shortly after Springsteen announced he would not appear in the Tar Heel State, singer Bryan Adams cancelled a scheduled performance in Mississippi, where Gov. Phil Bryant (R) recently signed into law a bill that allows individuals, businesses and even government workers to refuse to serve or assist LGBT people by citing religious or moral objections.

Taking to his Instagram account, Adams wrote that he could not “in good conscience” perform in a state where “certain people are being denied their civil rights due to their sexual orientation.”

Other entertainers haven’t gone so far as to cancel their concerts, but have also taken a position on the law, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Jimmy Buffett, who is slated to perform in Raleigh on April 21 and in Charlotte on April 23, called the North Carolina law “stupid” on his blog, and suggested that he might not appear again in the state if HB 2 remains on the books. 

In Tennessee, musicians and performers Miley Cyrus, Emmlou Harris, Chely Wright and Ty Herndon all expressed their opposition to a proposed “bathroom bill” that would target transgender students that was revived after initially being tabled last month. All four called upon Volunteer State lawmakers to defeat the bill.

Tennessee has also come under fire for another bill — likely headed to the governor’s desk — that would allow counselors and therapists to refuse to treat people, including LGBT youth, based on their personal disapproval of homosexuality.

Speaking to the bathroom bill, Cyrus wrote on her Instagram account: “For a moment a few weeks ago, it seemed like lawmakers in Tennessee had really heard the brave testimony of a transgender young person and her parents. A mother’s simple ask to legislators about what they would do if it was their child who was transgender hit a nerve, and the anti-transgender bill was sent to a summer study session, seemingly killing if for this year. But that was two weeks ago — a lifetime ago, it seems in light of all that has happened since — and that bill is back.”

Wright, who is an out lesbian, said that should the anti-transgender bill pass, it would send a negative message to a group of youths who are already at higher risk for bullying and harassment.

“It goes without saying that their classmates and their communities will hear this message loudly and clearly too; emboldening many of them to double down on that harassment,” she told The Tennessean.

In Mississippi, more than 90 authors who hail from the Magnolia State, including John Grisham, Donna Tartt and Kathryyn Stockett, have signed a statement calling for the repeal of the “religious freedom” bill allowing LBGT discrimination, the Hollywood publication Deadline reports.

“Governor Phil Bryant and the Mississippi legislators who voted for this bill are not the sole voices of our state,” the statement reads. “…Mississippi has a thousand histories, but these can be boiled down to two strains: our reactionary side, which has nourished intolerance and degradation and brutality, which has looked at difference as a threat, which has circled tightly around the familiar and the monolithic; and our humane side, which treasures compassion and charity and a wide net of kinship, which is fascinated by character and story, which is deeply involved in the daily business of our neighbors.

“Mississippi authors have written through pain, and they have written out of disappointment, but they have also written from wonder, and pride, and a fierce desire to see the politics of this state live up to its citizens,” the statement continues. “It is deeply disturbing to so many of us to see the rhetoric of hate, thinly veiled, once more poison our political discourse.”

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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