Over the weekend, Bruce Springsteen made a powerful statement against the North Carolina Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act (known as the "bathroom bill") by cancelling his Greensboro show, and this morning in Nashville Chris Carmack and songwriter/producer Desmond Child joined GLAAD and the Tennessee Equality Project to speak out against two other similarly discriminatory measures. If signed into law, Tennessee House Bill 1840 would allow the state's mental health professionals to refuse treatment to LGBT patients, and the Tennessee Senate Education Committee's HB 2414 would require local transgender students to use the bathroom that corresponds to their designated sex at birth, not how they chose to identify. Miley Cyrus, Emmylou Harris, Chely Wright and Ty Herndon, along with Viacom and CMT, have already spoken out against the bills, and now GLAAD is urging the rest of Nashville and the country music industry to follow suit.
"I personally am terrified that these proposals even exist in our state," said Carmack, who plays an openly gay country singer on ABC's Nashville and released his Pieces of You EP last year. "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."
GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis challenged Nashville's music industry to rally against these bills, in the same way the entertainment industry joined together to collectively pressure Georgia's Governor Nathan Deal to veto the state's "religious liberty" bill. "We need big voices in this industry," Ellis sais, "like Sony Nashville, Big Machine Records, Universal Music Group, RCA, Curb Records, Warner Brothers and others to speak out. We need the many, many businesses that thrive on the music industry to speak out. I am here today to call on the music industry to stand with us, alongside television networks and film studios who stood with us in Georgia, in a united front against discrimination.”
The legislation for HB 1840 and HB 2414 is pending senate approval, and, if signed into law, could have a disastrous impact on not only the quality of life of Tennessee's LGBT community, but the state's economy as well — and particularly the 10 billion dollars generated per year by the entertainment industry.
"The two bills on the table are morally and spiritually corrupt to the core," said Songwriter Hall of Fame member Child, who lives in Nashville with his husband and two children. He urged the country music community to speak out actively against these bills. "If passed, they will disgrace our community and make us laughing stocks of the world. . . so why now? Because it's payback for the Supreme Court passing marriage equality and making it the law of the land."
The country music industry has made some strides in recent years in terms of supporting the LGBT community. Artists including Carrie Underwood, Lee Ann Rimes, Dolly Parton, Tim McGraw, Garth Brooks, Reba and Wynonna have all offered support, while Kacey Musgraves has been an active ally, hosting her record release party for Pageant Material at a gay club (complete with a drag show) and never mincing words when it comes to expressing her political and social beliefs. But there is an undeniable struggle on Music Row between the increasingly progressive fan base and a strong history in conservative values – just last week, The Guardian reported on the NRA's enduring attempts to permeate the country industry and recruit its stars to act as pro-firearm ambassadors.
Ellis and other LBGT leaders will spend this week in Nashville meeting with executives and imploring them to join the fight against these bills, and Carmack urged his fellow celebrities and music industry figureheads to actively speak out (though he would not comment as to whether or not he anticipated that Nashville would withdraw from filming locally should HB 1840 and HB 2414 be actualized).
"I know from the work I do playing an out gay country star on television that words matter," Cormack said. "Images matter, and not just the ones we hear on our screens or hear on our radios. So it's important for those who can make a difference to stand up and let their words be heard, let their actions be seen."