Pearl Jam has become the latest band to boycott North Carolina over their controversial anti-LGBT legislation. The rock group that rose to fame during the 1990s grunge period announced on April 18 that it has cancelled its Raleigh, North Carolina, show that was scheduled for April 20. As Radio.com reports, Pearl Jam was very unambiguous about the reason behind the cancellation of the North Carolina show, posting a scathing letter on both social media and the band’s website. The open letter calls North Carolina’s new anti-LGBT legislation (officially known as HB2) “a despicable piece of legislation that encourages discrimination against an entire group of American citizens.”
— Pearl Jam (@PearlJam) April 18, 2016
While a cancelled Pearl Jam concert may not seem like much of a blow to the State of North Carolina, Pearl Jam is just the most recent in a veritable slew of artists, individuals, corporations, and even municipal governments that have boycotted North Carolina over the legislation, reports Esquire Magazine. In addition to Pearl Jam, North Carolina has been boycotted by Ringo Starr, Bryan Adams, Bruce Springsteen, PayPal, General Electric, and Hyatt, among many others. The list of entities that have boycotted North Carolina over HB2 continues to grow almost daily, and even the municipal governments of Salt Lake City and Cincinnati have boycotted North Carolina along with Pearl Jam, reports Buzzfeed.
Why are so many people, companies, and even governments bailing on North Carolina over this legislation? What it is it about HB2 that’s so controversial? Pearl Jam summed it up pretty well in the open letter that announced the cancellation of their Raleigh show.
“The HB2 law that was recently passed is a despicable piece of legislation that encourages discrimination against an entire group of American citizens. The practical implications are expansive and its negative impact upon basic human rights is profound. We want America to be a place where no one can be turned away from a business because of who they love or fired from their job for who they are.
“It is for this reason that we must take a stand against prejudice, along with other artists and businesses, and join those in North Carolina who are working to oppose HB2 and repair what is currently unacceptable.”
As Pearl Jam so succinctly stated, North Carolina’s HB2 not only allows discrimination, it actively encourages it. The bill, also known as the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act, is disguised as a law intended to protect both religious liberties and non-transgender citizens from sharing bathrooms and locker rooms with transgender people. As ABC News reports, the North Carolina bill, which was signed into law by Governor Pat McCrory in March, requires that all public schools (including colleges) and government agencies be used only by people whose “biological sex” (the one listed on their birth certificate) matches the sign on the door. This would only apply to multiple occupancy facilities.
— ABC News (@ABC) April 13, 2016
That in and of itself seems like enough of a slap in the face to North Carolina’s LGBT community and it could even be dangerous to trans people. But, the North Carolina anti-LGBT law doesn’t stop there. HB2 goes much further, encroaching into what Pearl Jam called “despicable” territory, by banning local municipalities from creating legislation that prohibits discrimination against the LGBT community. According to the new anti-LGBT law, state law “overrides all local ordinances concerning wages, employment and public accommodations.” This means that local cities and towns are legally banned from protecting citizens in their communities from discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.
Just how the State of North Carolina expects to enforce their newly enacted potty-policing is anybody’s guess. Mother Jones actually took the time to call some North Carolina police departments to ask them, and the answers were pretty clear. No police department is hiring extra cops to stand guard at public restroom doors. Nor is there an expectation that people will carry their birth certificate with them at any time they feel they might need to use a public restroom.
“We’re not checking birth certificates. We just don’t have the police power to be able to do that in bathrooms.”
Police departments did say that they would send an officer to investigate if they received a complaint. However, that raises even more questions. Isn’t it more likely that someone would complain if a person who appeared to be a man was using the women’s restroom or vice versa?
North Carolina’s HB2 legislation doesn’t seem to be enforceable at all in any practical sense. It’s almost as if Pearl Jam was right, that the legislation exists to encourage discrimination rather than to protect anyone from harm. It’s almost as if North Carolina’s legislature just wanted to pass a law that would do nothing more than make the LGBT community feel unwelcome in the state.
Along with the band’s open letter announcing the cancellation of the North Carolina Pearl Jam show, Pearl Jam posted a link to a petition demanding that HB2 be repealed.
Pearl Jam has also assured upset ticket holders that the band is “equally frustrated” by the situation in North Carolina, and that they hope that there will be a time when the band can return to the state. Presumably after SB2 is repealed, something that the band is contributing money to help fund.
What do you think? Is it appropriate or inappropriate for people, communities, businesses, and artists such as Pearl Jam to boycott North Carolina over the state’s anti-LGBT legislation?
[Photo by Greg Allen/Invision/AP Images]