With two controversial new laws being considered before the state’s Senate, Tennessee has become the latest battleground in the struggle for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality in the US.
If passed, Tennessee House Bill 1840 will enable mental health professionals to refuse to treat LGBT individuals on religious grounds. Equally concerning, Tennessee Senate Education Committee’s HB 2414, seeks to require transgender students to only use bathrooms corresponding to their sex of birth.
The laws form part of a spate of anti-LGBT laws sweeping Southern US states. Already backlash to these laws within the music industry has been considerable, with many artists condemning or boycotting states where the laws have been enacted or considered. Last week Bruce Springsteen cancelled a concert in North Carolina and yesterday Bryan Adams followed suit in Mississippi. Now many artists with ties to Tennessee have condemned the potential laws including Miley Cyrus, Emmylou Harris, Billy Ray Cyrus, Chely Wright and Ty Herndon. And this is only within music – celebrities and major companies including Facebook and Apple have also condemned these laws.
Now, LGBT rights organisation GLAAD have called upon the greater Nashville and country music industry to assist in defeating the oppressive legislation. Speaking publicly at a Nashville press conference President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis has thrown down the gauntlet. “We need big voices in this industry like Sony, Big Machine Records, Universal Music Group, Curb Records, Warner Brothers and others to speak out,” she said.
Chris Carmick, who plays a gay country singer on TV series Nashville, has also publicly criticised the laws. “I personally am terrified that these proposals even exist in our state,” he told Rolling Stone. “This kind of unnecessary discrimination has no place in this city or the state of Tennessee. If these bills get passed, it would have a devastating impact on the lives of so many people. . . and this represents an enormous step backwards in the progress that has been made towards civil liberties for every citizen.”
While the country music industry has a mixed history of conservatism and LGBT support, it seems that organisations like GLAAD see the support of local musicians as key to turning public perception against the laws. In coming days, LBGT leaders will be descending on Nashville in force this week to meet with key industry figures.
We're in Nashville calling on the music industry to take a stand against discriminatory bills pending in Tennessee pic.twitter.com/lLLLK3PHnY
— GLAAD (@glaad) April 11, 2016
Image: Rolling Stone