Country stars challenge anti-transgender measure in Tennessee

Some of the biggest stars in country music are uniting with child welfare advocates, civil rights organizations, the business community and supporters of equality to oppose legislation in Tennessee attacking transgender students in public schools and universities.

The Human Rights Campaign on April 8 announced that Emmylou Harris, Chely Wright, Ty Herndon, Miley Cyrus, and Country Music Television are issued statements against HB 2414 and SB 2387 — discriminatory proposals that would further marginalize transgender students and make it illegal for them to use restrooms and other facilities consistent with their gender identity.

“Transgender youth already face incredibly high levels of discrimination, bullying and harassment, and it is appalling that the state of Tennessee would consider requiring public schools to discriminate against them, too,” HRC president Chad Griffin said in a news release from the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights group. “Today, some of the biggest stars in the country music industry are using their voices to try and protect these young people.”

He continued, “They join a broad chorus of parents, teachers, child welfare advocates, pediatricians, businesses and civil rights organizations urging Tennessee lawmakers to do the right thing and stop discrimination against transgender youth. Tennessee should block this hateful legislation and commit to ensuring every child has the right to learn without being subjected to discrimination or fear.”

Over the past month, bills with language similar to Tennessee’s proposal were vetoed in South Dakota, but enacted in North Carolina, where lawmakers have faced backlash, including boycotts.

On April 8, country music leaders spoke out against the Tennessee legislation:

“Those who love and make country music do so because at its best it speaks to the pain and suffering everyone shares in this life. Let’s not make that life harder still for some, with this mean spirited and unnecessary legislation.” — Emmylou Harris

“As an artist living and working in Nashville for more than 20 years, I know how hard it was to struggle for acceptance as a gay woman. The deck is stacked even higher against transgender students who face dramatically increased rates of bullying. This bill will send a devastating message to transgender youth that they are not welcome, included or valued. 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. I have a lot of friends in Nashville with great, big voices and it’s time that we all use our voices to stand up against this scourge of unnecessary, hateful legislation in Tennessee.” — Chely Wright

“As a recording artist and resident of Tennessee this matter breaks my heart. Therefore I stand and join other supporters of equality calling on Tennessee’s elected officials to reject legislation that would harm and marginalize transgender children, already among our most vulnerable young people.  Discrimination is always wrong, but it’s particularly heartbreaking to see legislators considering terrible measures targeting, instead of supporting, our children. When I told my mother I’m gay, her only concern was that I would have a happy and successful life. Because My Life Mattered. Let her be our example.”  — Ty Herndon

“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.” — Miley Cyrus

“Viacom and CMT have a deep commitment to tolerance, diversity and inclusion, and discriminatory laws like HB2414 and SB2387 are inconsistent with our values. As proud members of Tennessee’s welcoming and vibrant business community, we implore state lawmakers to reject these proposals.” — Viacom and Country Music Television