Rockstar Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band just put a human touch on an LGBT issue by becoming the latest vocal opponents to North Carolina’s so-called “bathroom” law, which requires transgender people to use bathrooms that align with their sex marker at birth and not their gender identity. The band announced that it would cancel their Sunday show in Greensboro. In a statement to fans on his website, Springsteen indicated that the cancellation was a show of “solidarity” and criticized the law as an attempt “by people who cannot stand the progress our country has made in recognizing the human rights of all of our citizens to overturn that progress.”
“Some things are more important than a rock show and this fight against prejudice and bigotry — which is happening as I write — is one of them,” Springsteen added. “It is the strongest means I have for raising my voice in opposition to those who continue to push us backwards instead of forwards.”
Tickets for the Sunday show will be refundable.
At the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction on Friday night, guitarist Steven Van Zandt noted that it was a “tough decision,” but that “we felt the issue was too important.”
“This vile and evil discrimination is starting to spread state to state, and we thought we better take a stand right now, early, and try to stop it,” he said. “Or at least set an example for others to do the same… You have to hurt them economically to have them do the right thing morally, unfortunately…We don’t take it lightly, believe me.”
Celebrity Ellen Degeneres praised the band’s decision to cancel its show in North Carolina.
I ❤️ Bruce @Springsteen.
— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) April 8, 2016
But Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC), who represents parts of Greensboro, called the band’s cancellation a “bully” tactic.
“Bruce is known to be on the radical left,” Walker said. “And he’s got every right to be so, but I consider this a bully tactic. It’s like when a kid gets upset and says he’s going to take his ball and go home.”
North Carolina’s HB2 law is facing growing backlash, particularly from students and faculty who have been holding protests and occupations demanding better for their transgender classmates and colleagues. Basketball legend Charles Barkley called the NBA to move its 2017 All-Star Game, set in Charlotte, away to another city. And the NBA has said it is “deeply concerned” about the anti-LGBT law. PayPal canceled its plans for a global operations center that would have brought 400 new jobs to the state. Within the entertainment industry, Lionsgate pulled production of a Hulu pilot from North Carolina to Canada.
It’s possible that there may be collateral consequences for state residents if Springsteen and other big players boycott North Carolina. After Broadway musical Wicked’s composer said that he would halt productions in the state, a community theater executive director said, “From a 45-year-old gay man who grew up in a rural town and turned to theater in the darkest hour, I would hate to see the whole state go dark because of a few bigoted individuals who care nothing about a theatrical boycott, anyway. You wouldn’t be hurting them; you would be hurting us… your supporters.”
Still, the law may have real economic consequences for the state moving forward. Several cities and states have banned all government-funded travel to the state of North Carolina, including the District of Columbia, San Francisco, New York City, Seattle, and Portland, as well as the states of New York, Vermont, Connecticut, and Washington. Plans to build a $20 million manufacturing and research facility for Braeburn Pharmaceuticals was halted after company officials said that they were “reevaluating our options based on the recent, unjust legislation.” And Google Venture officials said the company won’t back companies in North Carolina until HB2 is repealed. CEO Bill Maris told the firm’s partners to “please flag any investments in NC that come through as I am not comfortable deploying dollars into startups there until the voters there fix this.”