NEW YORK (AFP) — Bruce Springsteen on Friday canceled a concert in North Carolina to protest a law that targets transgender people, vowing to fight against “those who continue to push us backwards.”
Springsteen’s move marks one of the highest-profile actions yet against the law, which prohibits local governments within the southern state from acting to stop discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people in public facilities and restrooms.
“To my mind, it’s 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,” the rock legend said in a statement.
“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.
“It is the strongest means I have for raising my voice in opposition to those who continue to push us backwards instead of forwards.”
Springsteen had been due to perform Sunday in Greensboro, North Carolina as part of a sold-out arena tour revisiting his classic 1980 album “The River.”
Springsteen, 66, rose to fame with his tales of the struggles of working-class America and his intense marathon concerts.
He has become increasingly open about his political beliefs in the past decade, campaigning for President Barack Obama and other Democrats.
In his statement, “The Boss” saluted activists and business leaders who have spoken out against North Carolina’s law.
Notably, online payment giant PayPal scrapped a $3.6 million investment in North Carolina and the National Basketball Association has warned that it may pull next year’s All-Star Game from the state.
The governors of New York and Washington and a number of other local leaders have banned non-essential travel by officials to North Carolina.
North Carolina’s Republican governor, Pat McCrory, signed the law last month after its passage by the state legislature in response to a non-discrimination ordinance approved by Charlotte, the largest city in the state.
A Republican congressman from North Carolina, Mark Walker, told The Hollywood Reporter that other artists were coming to the state including Justin Bieber and Def Leppard.
Saying he might go to the Bieber concert in solidarity, Walker accused Springsteen of a “bully tactic.”
“It’s like when a kid gets upset and says he’s going to take his ball and go home,” he said.
Spreading of laws in South
The law, known as HB2, requires that transgender people use the restroom corresponding to the sex on their birth certificate.
Another southern state, Mississippi, has followed suit with a measure that allows officials and businesses to deny services to gay people or refuse to employ them if they feel it would violate their religious beliefs.
Steven Van Zandt, a member of Springsteen’s E Street Band, said the artists wanted to prevent such laws from spreading, even though it was a “tough decision” to disappoint fans.
“This really vile and evil discrimination is starting to spread state to state and we thought we better take a stand right now and catch it early and maybe try to stop it or at least set some kind of example for others,” Van Zandt told reporters at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in New York.
“It’s unfortunately the only way people understand — you have to hurt them economically in order to have them do the right thing morally,” said Van Zandt, who led an artist campaign against apartheid in South Africa.
Van Zandt was taking part in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony to present a lifetime achievement award to late producer and songwriter Bert Berns.