Lady Gaga, Lena Dunham, George Takei, Gloria Steinem, and Whoopi Goldberg were among the 100-plus outspoken entertainers and personalities to send a Valentine’s Day card to Texas leaders, saying they love the Lone Star State and its people, but not the proposed “bathroom bill.”
Under the “Creative Community Against Anti-LGBT Legislation in Texas” banner, the politically-motivated love letter opens by saying its signers are “watching” lawmakers, although they praise Texans for their contributions to music, art, and culture:
We love Texas and its people so much. Among us, we have spent time in countless towns and cities across the state. For many of us, performing in Texas for the first time has been a life-altering experience. We are amazed by the state’s culture and community.
The collective Cupids then hunkered down, noting they are “deeply troubled by the current legislation that would target the LGBTQ community in Texas.”
Sting, Cyndi Lauper, Britney Spears, Julianne Moore, Amy Poehler, Amy Schumer, Jennifer Lawrence, Jimmy Kimmel, Emma Stone, Ewan McGregor, Alicia Keys, Lance Bass, Cakes Da Killa, and the B-52s also were among the Valentine’s Day artists to call out Senate Bill 6 (SB 6) dubbed the “Texas Privacy Act.” It seeks to institute transgender bathroom restrictions. Supporters say such a law is needed to protect the rights and safety of women and children while critics believe it would discriminate against transgender persons. SB 6 author Senator Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham) responded to criticism by saying: “This bill is written not to begin a controversy, but to end one.”
The celebrity love letter cited House Bill 1362 (HB 1362), authored by Representative Matt Shaheen (R-Plano), a scaled down local government approach to the sensitive issue. In a report, the Texas Association of Business (TAB) slammed the bill as discriminatory, asserting Texas would lose billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of jobs if enacted. However, PolitiFact called TAB’s claims “mostly false.”
Signees alluded to unspecified Texas bills as “poison” and “a barrier between Texas and its future.”
“Other legislation being considered in Texas would force teachers to out LGBTQ students to their parents — a violation of the trust built between kids and educators. Still more bills in the works would strip Texas cities of their LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination protections, undermine marriage equality, or legalize discrimination on campuses and in public life.”
Senator Konni Burton (R-Colleyville) filed SB 242 to reinforce existing state laws governing Chapter 26 of the Texas Education Code, nicknamed the parents “bill of rights.” SB 242 does not mention sexuality or gender but critics charge it will force schools to “out” LGBTQ students. Burton asserted overreach after a transgender bathroom policy introduced in Fort Worth schools forced parents out of their children’s lives. She said SB 242 ensures schools disclose full information to parents about their children.
In the letter, the entertainers said it was their responsibility to make sure their fans and fellow artists feel safe and welcome, implying to lawmakers should a bathroom bill pass, they may not feel safe in Texas:
It is up to you whether these bills will become law and we are watching. It is up to us to commit to doing everything within our power to make sure all of our fans, crews, and fellow artists feel safe and welcome wherever we go.
The Valentine’s Day message closed on a social justice note: “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.” The signers “humbly add” their names to that “proud tradition” and ask legislators to end the “needless targeting” of LGBTQ people in Texas.
Recently, the NCAA and the Big 12 Conference put Texas on notice they are the tracking bathroom bill legislation.
The issue erupted when Fort Worth Independent School District Superintendent Kent Scribner unilaterally enacted transgender bathroom and locker room policies without any input or say from parents or taxpayers in 2016. Lt. Governor Dan Patrick admonished Scribner for putting a “personal agenda” ahead of the district’s 86,000 students. Patrick stated: “The job of a superintendent is not to be a social engineer.” He underscored parents have a right to know information about their children “unless there is abuse or danger at home and, in that case, it’s not up to the schools to decide.”
Attorney General Ken Paxton expressed “strong concern” that the Fort Worth ISD policy circumvented parents’ rights to information about their children, violated the ed code, and was “motivated by a misguided view of Title IX.” He later filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration and led a 13-state complaint after the U.S. education and justice departments teamed up on a letter advising transgender students may use bathroom and other facilities based on “gender identity.” The feds maintained schools that did not follow the policy risked losing federal funds. A federal judge later ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, blocking the nationwide transgender directive.
In 2015, Houston voters resoundingly defeated the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (H.E.R.O.), a proposed transgender bathroom bill.
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