Adding their voices to one of the most hotly debated issues before the Legislature, almost 140 entertainers signed an open letter urging Texas leaders to reject legislation that would strike down transgender-friendly bathroom policies in public schools, government buildings and city ordinances.
The letter, released Tuesday, said the artists and musical groups had a responsibility to do “everything within our power to make sure all of our fans, crews and fellow artists feel safe and welcome, wherever we go.”
“Artistic expression has always been a political act, and some of the most venerated artists in our history have put themselves on the line to take a stand against injustice. We humbly add our names to that proud tradition today, in asking you to end the needless targeting of LGBTQ people in Texas,” the letter said.
“It is up to you whether these bills will become law, and we are watching,” said the letter, signed by musicians including Lady Gaga, Sting, Alicia Keys, Ariana Grande, Britney Spears, Cyndi Lauper, Wilco, Bon Iver and Kesha, as well as actors Amy Poehler, Emma Stone, Ewan McGregor, Jennifer Lawrence, Whoopi Goldberg and Julianne Moore, and comedian Amy Schumer, late-night TV host Jimmy Kimmel and novelist Michael Chabon.
Meantime, the Family Research Council announced that Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a leading proponent of efforts to crack down on transgender-friendly bathroom policies, will address the conservative Christian organization’s “Privacy & Freedom” forum Wednesday in Washington, D.C.
The forum will offer updates and advice on countering transgender bathrooms and other policies by “radical LGBT activists” that threaten religious freedom and violate the safety and privacy of women and children, according to the Family Research Council, which believes that biological sex is identifiable at birth and immutable. The group also classifies homosexuality as harmful to society, unnatural and associated with physical and psychological health problems.
The forum also will include Dan Forest, the lieutenant governor of North Carolina, where entertainers and sports leagues canceled events after last year’s passage of House Bill 2, which banned transgender bathrooms in schools and government buildings and overturned local ordinances that extended anti-discrimination protection to gay, lesbian and transgender people.
In Texas, the fight over similar bills has been heating steadily.
Clergy members gathered last week in Austin to attend competing forums to support and oppose the legislation.
Leading Texas businesses have held multiple Capitol events to argue that passage would tarnish the state’s welcoming climate for businesses — prompting boycotts from entertainers, sports leagues and travelers while discouraging some corporations from relocating or expanding in the state.
Patrick and other supporters dismiss fears of an economic backlash as overblown and insist that action is required to protect privacy and promote safety in bathrooms, locker rooms and dressing rooms — places where people are at their most vulnerable.
Jumping into the debate, the entertainers who signed Tuesday’s open letter to lawmakers said such concerns are misguided because transgender people are most at risk.
“Transgender and gender-nonconforming young people are already subjected to bullying and harassment,” the letter said. “Can you imagine the message these bills send to children — the message of ‘that child is unwelcome, that child is dangerous’?”
Young transgender people already face high rates of family rejection, homelessness and suicide, the entertainers wrote. “How much more can you punish them for living honestly and openly?”
The Legislature hasn’t yet acted on two transgender bathroom bills that have been filed thus far.
Senate Bill 6 and a similar measure, House Bill 1362, would prohibit public schools from letting transgender children use multistall bathrooms that conform with their gender identity. State government buildings also would be barred from creating transgender-friendly bathrooms, and cities and counties would be prohibited from requiring bathrooms that accommodate transgender individuals.
Patrick named SB 6, which has 15 of 20 Republican senators as co-authors, a priority for passage. HB 1362 was filed two weeks ago by Rep. Matt Shaheen, R-Plano.