April 8, 2016 / 7:52 PM / a year ago

Springsteen cancels North Carolina show over transgender law

4 Min Read

Bruce Springsteen performs during The River Tour at the LA Memorial Sports Arena in Los Angeles, California March 17, 2016.Mario Anzuoni

(Reuters) - Rock star Bruce Springsteen on Friday canceled a weekend concert in North Carolina to protest a new state law barring transgender people from choosing bathrooms consistent with their gender identity, as country music stars decried similar legislation proposed in Tennessee.

The cancellation comes as a number of U.S. states consider legislation seen as discriminatory to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights.

Springsteen, whose lyrics and actions have earned him a reputation for low-key political activism, said canceling the concert was the strongest way for him to show his opposition.

"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," he said in an online statement.

Fans will receive refunds for tickets to the concert that was scheduled for Sunday in Greensboro, North Carolina, it said.

The U.S. South has been the epicenter of a backlash to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year that legalized same-sex marriage.

This year, more than a dozen states have considered laws that would restrict bathroom access for transgender people, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

A related law signed in Mississippi this week allows people with religious objections to deny wedding services to same-sex couples and permits employers to cite religion in determining workplace policies on dress code, grooming and bathroom and locker access.

'Hateful Legislation'

South Carolina lawmakers on Wednesday introduced a measure that would require transgender people to use public bathrooms matching their sex at birth, and Tennessee is considering a similar measure for students in public schools and colleges.

On Friday, pop singer Miley Cyrus, a Tennessee native, and country music stars Emmylou Harris, Ty Herndon and Chely Wright blasted the proposed legislation in the state renowned as the home of country music's capital, Nashville.

"I have a lot of friends in Nashville with great, big voices and it's time that we all use our voices to stand up against this scourge of unnecessary, hateful legislation," Wright, one of the first country music stars to come out as gay, said in a statement released by the Human Rights Campaign, a LGBT advocacy group.

Hollywood celebrities and business leaders took a stand against a similar so-called religious liberty bill that passed in Georgia, and the state's governor vetoed it last week.

The North Carolina law has also drawn widespread criticism. PayPal Holdings Inc (PYPL.O) cited the law on Tuesday when it canceled a new operations center that was to employ 400 workers in Charlotte.

Meanwhile, executives from companies including The Coca-Cola Co (KO.N), Northrop Grumman Corp (NOC.N) and Intel Corp (INTC.O) have signed a letter condemning the Mississippi law.

Springsteen's lyrics often mix working-class imagery and social justice themes. He publicly supported a measure to legalize gay marriage in his home state of New Jersey, and has long weighed in on other political issues.

Last year, he headlined a Los Angeles fundraiser organized after a series of shootings of young African Americans triggered national soul-searching over race relations.

Reporting by Letitia Stein in Tampa, Florida, Karen Brooks in Fort Worth, Texas and Frank McGurty in New York; Editing by Toni Reinhold and David Gregorio

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