In light of new legislation that targets the LGBTQ community in Texas, a coalition of 142 artists, writers, and creators are speaking out in support of the gay community.
The group was organized by Jack Antonoff, who dates Lena Dunham and is a longtime ally to the LGBTQ community (he famously refuses to get married “until everyone could get married”). He drafted a letter (read in full, below) to legislators considering the anti-LGBTQ laws. With Grimes, Lady Gaga, Bon Iver, Jennifer Lawrence, Juanes, and countless others on board, the creative community is sending a clear message: “We are watching.”
In one of the proposed bills, Texas teachers would be forced to out all LGBTQ student to their parents. Any attempt to withhold such information from a parent would be “grounds for discipline,” according to the bill drafted by Republican State Senator Kenni Burton.
The bill was a response to new guidelines passed in the Fort Worth school district that made it acceptable for teachers to conceal knowledge of transgender students.
“Transgender and gender non-conforming young people are already subjected to bullying and harassment,” the open letter from the artists read, “...[they] also already face higher rates of family rejection and homelessness, mental health issues and suicidality, and they already are more likely to be denied work and housing. How much more can you punish them for living honestly and openly?”
LGBT youth are frequently the victims of bullying and discrimination, according to a study conducted by Visions Journal. No Bullying, an online forum aimed at ending the harassment in schools and online, found that 82% of LGBT students had problems during the previous year with bullying about sexual orientation and 44% of them felt unsafe or were physically harassed.
Additionally, LGBT youth who are not accepted by their families are eight times more likely to commit suicide than other teens.
Equity Texas condemns the bill and said in a statement by Chairman Steven M Rudman that "until kids are not kicked out of their house for being gay or transgender, and until kids are not being beaten by parents for being gay or transgender, we owe it to kids to protect them."
“The bathroom bill,” the other bill in question by the open letter, was introduced by a Republican state senator at the beginning of February as the “Texas Privacy Act.” The act would limit public restroom access for transgender people. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who guides the legislative agenda in the predominantly Republican-state senate, said the measure protected the privacy and safety of Texans.
“If it costs me an election, if it costs me a lot of grief, then so be it,” Patrick responded. “If we can’t fight for something this basic, then we’ve lost our country.”
Patrick and other Texas lawmakers weighed in on what became a national controversy shortly after the law was enacted in North Carolina last March.
Following a federal civil rights lawsuit, North Carolina went on to lose millions of dollars in lost business and major sporting events.
Similarly, the Texas Association of Business — a major industry group — came to the conclusion in a study it helped conduct that such legislation could cost the state up to $8.5 billion and more than 100,000 jobs.
However, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has expressed support of discriminatory bathroom bills and opposes measures to protect LGBQT people.
Antonoff told Billboard that the support of the creative community has a lot of financial clout that could change the calculus for many lawmakers.
“Our support means a lot ... it has to do with the economy, it’s all of it,” he said. “I wrote this letter because I want them to know that me and all of my friends — all of these wonderful artists and actors and writers and designers — are watching Texas and are not OK with this happening.”
The controversial bills won’t be voted on until the legislative session on March 20 — Austin’s All In For Equality Advocacy Day — when hundreds are expected to protest.