How both national and local acts responded to HB2 and why it matters…
Over the course of about two months, North Carolina and its most recent bill have been on the radar. The passing of House Bill 2, which more or less dictates how local cities govern their public facilities, has caused an outrage among not only the LGBT+ citizens across the country, but music lovers in the Carolinas. In response to the bill, many artists have cancelled all NC tour stops, claiming they are in standing in solidarity with those who are fighting the bill. Other musicians have chosen to play their NC dates and donate money to the very same people. In some cases, North Carolinians are more angered by the cancellation of their favorite artist’s concert than they are by the bill that affects basic human rights. To each their own, but regardless of who people are angry at, all of the controversy began with the passing of HB2.
On February 22, 2016, Charlotte passed an ordinance that expanded NC’s anti-discrimination laws so that they provided protection for LGBT+ individuals in places of “public accommodation,” also known as public restrooms; as a result of this ordinance, transgender people would be able to use the restroom that coordinated with the gender they identified with. The law was set to go into effect on April 1st; that is, until the NC General Assembly stepped in and proposed what is widely known as HB2. House Bill 2 not only prevents local governments from establishing their own minimum wages beyond the state standards, but it also provides a statewide definition of classes of people who are protected against discrimination, including race, religion, color, national origin, age, handicap, and biological sex given at birth. The two things missing from this list are sexual orientation and gender identity, the two aspects of basic rights HB2 deals with.
Despite recent Supreme Court rulings that legalized same-sex marriage, sexual orientation and gender identity were never a factor considered to be protected under state law. Additionally, transgender individuals had no legal right under state law before HB2 to use public restrooms of the gender they identify with; instead, many cities and counties took matters into their own hands and adopted laws on this issue that protected LGBT+ citizens. Under the new bill, cities and counties must oblige with the state’s law, essentially blocking any nondiscriminatory laws that could protect LGBT+ people. House Bill 2, otherwise known as the “Charlotte bathroom bill” or the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act, was passed on March 23rd and signed by Governor Pat McCrory that night, thus sparking a dialogue among citizens in North Carolina and beyond.
Although NC is growing both economically and culturally, many citizens of the Tar Heel state feel HB2 is “taking NC back 100 years,” according to long time Charlotte resident Rick Kiser. In response to the bill, many large companies have opted out of utilizing North Carolina as part of their plan to build their business. Deutsche Bank has stopped plans to expand in Cary, PayPal has cancelled their plan to open a global payment center in Charlotte, and 13 events scheduled at the Charlotte Convention Center have been cancelled, with 29 groups on the “hesitant to attend” list. Other corporations, like Facebook, Lowe’s, Bank of America, Salesforce, and American Airlines, have also denounced the law.
Additionally, ESPN, who was considering Charlotte for the summer X-Games, the NCAA, who scheduled tournament games to be played in Charlotte in 2017 and 2018, and the NBA, who was considering the Queen City to be the home of the 2017 All-Star game, have all addressed the bill as problematic and have called for a repeal, although never announcing their plan to move the events that would bring large profits to the local economy.
Not only are the folks in NC reacting to HB2 in a variety of ways, high-profile artists are taking a stand against the controversial bill. Music acts like Ringo Starr, Boston, Pearl Jam, and Bruce Springsteen have cancelled their North Carolina tour dates and have encouraged their fans to help fight the bill in any way they can. In his press release, Ringo Starr quoted his former legendary band with, “All you need is love…” after cancelling his 6/18 show in Cary. Boston cancelled three dates in a row, May 4, 5, and 6, in Charlotte, Greensboro, and Raleigh respectively, in response to “the oppressive law.” Pearl Jam, set to play in Raleigh on April 20th, referred to HB2 as a “despicable piece of legislation” and will be “waiting in line for a time when [they] return.” Bruce Springsteen cancelled his 4/10 Greensboro show and wrote that “this is a time for me and the band to show solidarity for those freedom fighters.”
On the other end of the spectrum, many artists are refusing to cancel their North Carolina shows and choosing to donate some or all of their profits to organizations fighting the bill. Mumford & Sons, who played in Charlotte on 4/14, noted on their Facebook that the band will be “creating a charitable fund to support those who have made it their mission to pursue love and justice… and we will start by making a donation from it to a local LGBTQ organisation.” Jimmy Buffett, scheduled to play in Raleigh and Charlotte on 4/21 and 4/23 respectively, responded to the bill on his blog with fervor, stating that “these shows were booked and sold out long before the governor signed that stupid law. I am not going to let stupidity or bigotry trump fun for my loyal fans this year.” Cyndi Lauper, a long time LGBT+ activist, has decided to turn her 6/4 show in Raleigh into an all-day campaign to “build public support to repeal HB2.”
Laura Jane Grace, vocalist for Against Me!, flat out refused to cancel their show in Durham on May 15th. She spoke to NME.com about her decision to play the NC date, telling the magazine that it was a no-brainer to go on with the show. She told NME that this bill “makes it all the more important to me to go there and be seen as a trans person and use whatever resources I have to draw attention to it and point people in the proper direction of how to make changes and help.”
Both Laura Jane Grace and Jimmy Buffett have stated they’ve played shows in states where laws similar to HB2, and other nonsensical laws affecting minorities, have been passed. To cancel a show in North Carolina and not in the other 29 states who have not banned employment discrimination based on gender identity is concerning and a little bit confusing.
Alabama Shakes played the Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amphitheatre on April 22nd in spite of the bill. Brittany Howard, front woman of the Grammy Award-winning band and spearhead for the LGBT+ community, recently opened up to Rolling Stone magazine and said the band “couldn’t just say ‘No, we’re not showing up and I’m sorry your government is behaving this way.’”
Howard told Rolling Stone that it was wrong of the NC government to “take their tax money, turn around and then disbar them from living with their identity that they fought so hard to understand and develop.”
Artists, like Father John Misty and Duran Duran, and even some comedians,like Louis C.K. and Joel McHale, are following in Mumford & Sons footsteps and donating all profits to organizations fighting the bill, such as Equality NC and Time Out Youth.
On a local level, Charlotte musicians are taking a stand for the city they love. Dylan Gilbert of Hectorina and Jordan Hoban, formerly known as Eli Parker, banded together to release an improvised piece of music entitled Straight White Men Are Ruining America. The release has only two songs, simply called “One” and “Two,” and are both almost sixteen minutes long. The release can be found here and all proceeds will be donated to Transcend, a nonprofit organization that promotes social justice for transgender individuals.
One musician hailing from the Tar Heel state feels the cancellation of these high-profile acts is necessary to accomplish the ultimate goal: to repeal HB2. Garrett Foster of Charlotte’s own Messenger Down said that “by canceling they are sending a message to NC that they don’t support what the state is doing by hitting their pockets.” Foster noted that since we live in a world that revolves around money, these shows would bring profits to North Carolina that would surely be used in support of the bill.
“They can use their ‘voice’ on social media and news outlets to speak out about it,” commented Foster.
“North Carolina is the prettiest state with the most backwards politics,” said Karl Kuehn. “I can’t STAND that there are artists under the impression that cancelling a show in NC is helping in any way. I think what Cyndi Lauper and Laura Jane Grace are doing is PERFECT and other artists should take note.”
Our very own Dianna Augustine feels the bill is “attacking the well being of our city, our wallets, but most of all our humanity.”
“I believe in a world where everyone is treated equally, can love who they want to love, and are not labeled as deviants because of their natural human behavior,” commented Augustine. “Even if you are only a keyboard warrior, at LEAST YOU ARE DOING SOMETHING!”
HB2 has sent a tidal wave of controversy overseas to the United Kingdom, where the British government has issued a travel advisory to LGBT+ citizens traveling to North Carolina. President Obama made a statement all the way from London ensuring the country that the people of NC are “hospitable” and “wonderful,” while also claiming that the bill should be overturned.
Despite all of the heat the bill and Gov. McCrory has seen since it was signed, HB2 is still in effect and going strong. However, it is crucial to remember that regardless of whether artists cancel shows or donate money, or do both, they all have one goal in mind: to repeal HB2 and become one step closer to complete equality. Of course there are more effective ways to protest the bill, but everyone has a different idea of what ‘effective’ means. In the end, there are an amazing amount of people from all over the nation who are against HB2 and are doing what they can to repeal it. In the midst of all the controversy over if so-and-so should have cancelled or not, just remember where the real fight is.