New laws under consideration in Tennessee that would allow therapists to deny patients they feel would violate their “sincerely held principles” and bar transgender people’s use of school bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity have drawn widespread rebuke from media organizations and artists, as well as some threats of boycotts should they pass.
One group has decided to use the controversy surrounding the legislation to celebrate diversity and make a stand in the state’s music capital. On Thursday, James Donio, President of the Music Business Association, issued a statement on the pending discriminatory legislation and its effect on the upcoming Music Biz 2016 event in Nashville slated for May 16-18.
“When we decided to bring Music Biz back to Nashville in 2016, the troubling bills now before the governor were not in discussion,” said Donio. “If these bills become law in Tennessee, they will allow discrimination against people for what they believe, how they live, or who they are — and especially penalize transgender youth at a time when they should be getting support. We urge Governor Haslam to use his veto power to put a stop to this harmful legislation. We strongly support the city of Nashville that has been so welcoming to Music Biz, and applaud Mayor Barry’s fierce opposition to this legislation.”
That said, the conference will proceed as planned, but in a statement seconded by the RIAA, Donio said his group will use the opportunity to build bridges. “Our event provides a perfect forum to highlight that music serves as a unifying force around the world,” he said. “It brings people together regardless of who they are. We will use our convention as an opportunity to discuss the need to celebrate diversity — rather than advancing or sanctioning discrimination — and how our business can be a positive force for fostering acceptance and understanding. ??Music Biz’s goal is to hold its convention in a place that embraces diversity in its fullest form, and we want to see Tennessee be true to that ideal.”
The Nashville Convention and Visitor’s Bureau and the city’s mayor applauded Music Biz’s decision.
— Nashville Tennessee (@visitmusiccity) April 14, 2016
— Megan Barry (@MayorMeganBarry) April 14, 2016
The Renaissance Hotel, which is hosting the event, also issued a supportive statement: “The Renaissance Nashville Hotel is standing with Mayor Megan Barry, the Nashville CVC and the Music Business Association in opposition to the two discriminatory bills now being debated in the Tennessee legislature. We believe that Nashville is a welcoming city that embraces diversity. We encourage our state representatives and senators to vote in a way that reflects the welcoming spirit of all Tennesseans.”
The uproar over the proposed Tennessee legislation is just the latest in a wave of new laws in states including North Carolina and Mississippi that have drawn the ire of businesses and celebrities alike, with Bruce Springsteen, Ani DiFranco, Ringo Starr and Bryan Adams canceling recent shows in those states. Legislation dealing with the treatment of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people was vetoed by Georgia’s governor, but similar bills are still being considered in South Carolina as well.