Bryan Adams among entertainers and companies protesting anti-LGBTQ bills sweeping the U.S.


[Canadian rocker Bryan Adams has cancelled a Mississippi concert over an anti-LGBTQ bill. REUTERS/Mike Ridewood]

By June Chua

Canadian rock icon Bryan Adams has joined the chorus of condemnation against anti-LGBTQ legislation by cancelling his concert this week in Mississippi.

The state’s new law, which takes effect July 1, permits some private businesses and religious groups to refuse service to gay couples.

In a statement released Sunday, Adams said he can’t “in good conscience” perform in a state where “certain people are being denied their civil rights due to their sexual orientation.”

His actions follow a similar move by Canadian production giant Lionsgate, which transplanted the filming of a pilot episode of a comedy series called “Crushed” from the Charlotte, N.C., area after that state passed a law blocking anti-discrimination rules for the LGBTQ community.

Rocker Bruce Springsteen also cancelled a concert on Sunday over North Carolina’s so-called “bathroom law.”

It’s not just about entertainment. Major corporations have spoken out against what appears to be a wave of anti-LGBTQ legislation sweeping the United States.

PayPal said it would kill a US$3.6-million expansion in North Carolina, amounting to 400 jobs. New Jersey’s Braeburn Pharmaceuticals announced it was re-thinking its plans to build a $50-million facility in Durham County, N.C.

More than 100 corporate leaders have decried the new laws and bills in North Carolina, Mississippi and other states, saying it is unfair and makes it more difficult to attract talent. Executives came from a diverse range of industries including CEOs from Alcoa, AT&T, Bank of America, Dow Chemical, Frito-Lay, HP, MasterCard, and Unilever PLC.

Inclusivity ‘critical to business’

Unilever chief executive Paul Polman tweeted on March 20, "Inclusive society critical to business. Many will reconsider investment.”

PepsiCo head Indra Nooyi penned a letter urging North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory to repeal the law as it was inconsistent with how her company treats its employees. PepsiCo has a long history in the state.

The Human Rights Campaign, an organization that advocates for LGBTQ rights, said there are nearly 200 bills in 28 states that are on the docket across several states.

They are in reaction to last year’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the constitution guaranteeing the right to same-sex marriage.

In Canada, there has been a reluctance to actively discriminate going back to 1967 when Pierre Trudeau — then the justice minister of Canada — declared “there’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.”

In the past decade, Canadian provinces have enshrined rights for LGBTQ people.

There was one major incident back in 2002 though, involving an Oshawa, Ont., teenager.

Marc Hall took the Durham Catholic District School Board to court after the principal of Monsignor John Pereyma Catholic Secondary School refused to allow him to bring his then-boyfriend, Jean-Paul Dumond, to prom.

On prom day, the judge issued an injunction ordering the school to allow the teenager to take the date of his choice to the big party.

Anti-LGBTQ states

Here is a run-down of some states in the U.S. that have major bills under consideration:

ALABAMA and FLORIDA: Both states have bills that would permit adoption agencies to use religion to discriminate against eligible parents and guardians.

GEORGIA: This state has already thrown out a proposal to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and now has a Senate-approved bill allowing “faith-based” organizations and individuals to refuse services to same-sex couples.

ILLINOIS: A bill requiring transgender students to use the bathrooms, locker rooms and other such facilities that match the gender assigned to them at birth is now on the docket.

KENTUCKY: Marriage licence clerks may not have to sign forms for same-sex couples under impending legislation. Public officials can cite their religion as a reason for not performing their duties and another bill would restrict transgender students’ use of restrooms.

NEVADA: Two bills that would allow individuals and businesses to use religion to challenge or opt out of laws, including laws that protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations.

Similar legislation is also being introduced in Arkansas, Georgia, Montana and Texas.

OKLAHOMA: The southern state has 26 anti-LGBT bills on the table - the most of any state. One will allow individuals, businesses and taxpayer-funded agencies to refuse goods or services by citing religion as the legal reason. Another will restrict use of bathrooms to transgender people, requiring them to use the facilities that are in line with the gender they were “born” with.

SOUTH DAKOTA: A bill has passed the Senate that would disallow transgender students in public schools from using facilities matching their gender identity. Gov. Dennis Daugaard has agreed to meet with a group of trans people before he decides whether to sign it.

TENNESSEE: The newly-passed HB 1840 awaits Gov. Bill Haslam’s signature or veto. The religious-liberty law has a mental-health section, allowing therapists the right to refuse to help patients based on “sincerely held religious belief.”

VIRGINIA: The House of Delegates has approved an expansive “religious freedom” bill that would prevent penalties against individuals and businesses that cite their faith for discriminating against LGBTQ people.