“Bills like these are poison.”
So reads a letter addressed to “Texas Leaders” signed by over 100 prominent artists in opposition to Texas Senate Bill 6 and House Bill 1362. Both are so-called “bathroom bills” that would require transgender students in public schools and people who work in certain state buildings to use the restroom that corresponds to their biological sex rather than their gender identity.
The letter is signed by a roster of celebrities including Ariana Grande, Sting, Sara Bareilles, Amy Poehler, Emma Stone, and Laverne Cox — who recently shouted out Gavin Grimm, a transgender Virginia student whose school board barred him from using the boys bathroom — at the Grammys.
“Transgender and gender non-conforming people are already subjected to bullying and harassment,” the letter reads. “Can you imagine the message these bills send to children — the message of ‘that child is unwelcome, that child is dangerous?'”
After North Carolina’s HB2 was passed, artists responded with denunciations and boycotts. This time, the performers are taking a stand against the bill to prevent it from becoming law in the first place.
The letter was spearheaded by Jack Antonoff, lead singer and songwriter of Bleachers and co-founder of The Ally Coalition, which is sponsoring the campaign against the bills in conjunction with Equality Texas and GLAAD.
“What we want to do is stop it, but if we can’t stop it, we want to try and cast a light on it,” Antonoff says. “We don’t want it to go through quietly. We want people to know what’s going on.”
Antonoff was motivated to take action on the legislation, in part, through his work with New Alternatives, a New York City-based support organization for homeless LGBTQ youth. Bills like SB6, he says, make things worse for everyone by ostracizing LGBTQ children from their peers and communities.
The Ally Coalition plans to target six different categories of bills.
In addition to these “bathroom bills,” the organization will work to oppose state-level bills meant to repeal same-sex marriage, bills that allow groups on college campuses to discriminate against LGBTQ students, religious liberty bills, bills that strip housing and workplace protections from LGBTQ people, and bills that require school officials to out LGBTQ students to their parents.
In the meantime, the group is urging its followers to sign on to the campaign and for those who live in Texas to call their representatives and speak out. Their site includes a form with a sample letter for supporters who want to register their opposition to the law.
Antonoff wants his fellow performers to be bold and address the issue at their shows.
“The biggest way you can fight back as someone with an audience is to speak to your audience,” he says.
Getting thousands of screaming concertgoers to scream against discriminatory legislation, he hopes, might just wake up a state legislator or two.
And now is the time — before anyone gets hurt.