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SXSW Releases Statement Decrying ‘Discriminatory Laws’ in Texas

After the passage of restrictive voting and abortion laws in Texas, Austin-based festival SXSW released a statement condemning the Texas government's actions.

Following Texas’ passage of a restrictive voting rights law and one of the most severe and restrictive abortion rights laws in the nation, SXSW, which has been located in the state capital of Austin for 30 years, released a statement decrying the government’s “discriminatory laws” and vowing to continue to support “civil rights for all persons, everywhere.”

This summer, the Republican-controlled Texas legislature, as well as Republican governor Greg Abbott, pushed through a bill that would impose voter ID requirements, limit ballot drop boxes and mail voting, and strip local officials of their election authority, measures designed to make it harder to vote in upcoming elections. Less than a month later, the government pushed through another bill that effectively bans abortions in the second-most-populous state in the country, as well as provisions that allow any citizen to sue a health official or doctor who performs an abortion or assists in helping a woman get an abortion, going so far as to allow lawsuits against anyone who would provide a ride to a woman to a clinic.

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Both laws were met with widespread outrage and condemnation by artists as well as the general public, as well as calls for boycotts of the state. In its statement released today, SXSW said it would not abandon Austin, saying that leaving “would economically damage the city much more than it would the state. Much of the economic impact derived from our event benefits the city’s small business and creative communities. Austin is part of SXSW’s DNA, and we are committed to staying and fighting alongside the people who have made us who we are. We will continue to use our platform to further the progression of human rights at home and across the globe.”

The statement was also released ahead of this weekend’s National Women’s March in support of reproductive rights, set to take place on Oct. 2, and the festival noted that “a number of our staff will be participating as both representatives of SXSW and concerned citizens” in the march. (Billboard parent company P-MRC partnered with SXSW in April and is now a 50% stakeholder in the festival.)

“These bills not only negatively impact reproductive freedom and voter rights in Texas, but set a dangerous precedent across the United States,” the festival continued. “The Texas Legislature and Governor Abbott continue to pass punitive legislation while presiding over governmental failures during the last two years that led to the suffering of thousands of Texans.”

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SXSW said it will be making donations to Planned Parenthood, the Lilith Fund and Fair Fight, “and will be reaching out to these organizations and other activists to give them a platform at the 2022 event. Additionally, we are looking for more ways that SXSW can make an impact and help change the makeup of Texas politics across the board.”

Read the festival’s full statement below.

In advance of the National Women’s March in support of reproductive rights on Saturday, October 2, where a number of our staff will be participating as both representatives of SXSW and concerned citizens, we wanted to share our thoughts on recent events in the state.

SXSW stands against discriminatory laws and unequivocally supports civil rights for all persons, everywhere.

As residents of Texas we are appalled at the passing of both SB 4 and SB 8, the most restrictive state abortion bills in the nation, along with SB 1, which deliberately disenfranchises voters.

These bills not only negatively impact reproductive freedom and voter rights in Texas, but set a dangerous precedent across the United States. The Texas Legislature and Governor Abbott continue to pass punitive legislation while presiding over governmental failures during the last two years that led to the suffering of thousands of Texans.

We hear the calls for us to leave the state that we have called home for more than 30 years. These grievous bills do not reflect the diversity of Texan voters or the evolving demographic and electoral trends. And they certainly do not reflect the progressive views held by many in Austin.

SXSW leaving Austin would economically damage the city much more than it would the state. Much of the economic impact derived from our event benefits the city’s small business and creative communities. Austin is part of SXSW’s DNA, and we are committed to staying and fighting alongside the people who have made us who we are. We will continue to use our platform to further the progression of human rights at home and across the globe.

We are making donations to Planned Parenthood, the Lilith Fund, and Fair Fight, and will be reaching out to these organizations and other activists to give them a platform at the 2022 event. Additionally, we are looking for more ways that SXSW can make an impact and help change the makeup of Texas politics across the board.