Following in the footsteps of multiple corporations, Bruce Springsteen, and the NBA, the San Francisco Symphony is giving the middle finger to North Carolina and its pro-LGBT-discrimination law known as HB2, and canceling a pair of concerts it had planned in April in Chapel Hill, as the New York Times is reporting. The Symphony's executive director Brent Assink issued a statement Monday saying, "We would have loved to perform at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a community that in many ways is consonant with our own San Francisco Bay Area... In the months after HB2 became law, we have closely watched the fluctuating political landscape in hopes that the law would be overturned. Because that has not yet happened, and due to pressing internal travel deadlines, the San Francisco Symphony has made the decision to cancel its concerts at this
Emil J. Kang, who serves as executive and artistic director of Carolina Performing Arts at UNC Chapel Hill responded with a statement saying that the university had never enforced HB2 and does not plan to. He added, "I am disappointed that the San Francisco Symphony will not be performing at UNC-Chapel Hill... but I respect their decision to cancel."
HB2, or House Bill 2, was passed in March and has yet to be overturned, though its big defender, Governor Pat McCrory, was defeated in the November election, as was Senator Buck Newton, who was running for attorney general in the state, losing to Josh Stein who's been a vocal critic of the bill. As Pink News reports, it was thought among some on the left that HB2 would be repealed in the last legislative session, but lawmakers adjourned in November with barely any changes to the law.
Soon after the bill's passing, SF Mayor Ed Lee issued a dictum that no city employees could travel to North Carolina on business using public funds, and the Symphony's statement says, "While the San Francisco Symphony is not a city entity, it honors its role as a cultural ambassador to also include the values of the city whose name it carries."
Though conductor and music director of the SF Symphony Michael Tilson Thomas has not commented directly on the decision, the Times notes that he is an out gay man, and said publicly earlier this year that San Francisco "has allowed me to be, in the fullest sense, an American, a Jew, and, as of two years ago, a gay married man."
The law, while generally rolling back anti-LGBT discrimination laws that had been enacted in more liberal and urban areas like Charlotte, was primarily focused on the issue of bathroom access for transgender individuals. HB2 was championed by the state's more rural counties who were convinced it would lead to pervy men or pedophiles trying to peep at women and girls in ladies' rooms, or generally an influx of freaks in their midst.
And consequences have been big for the state, with companies like Paypal killing major deals to open offices in the state, and the NBA deciding to move its All-Star game elsewhere. Last month, Forbes estimated that HB2 had already cost the state $630 million in lost business.
The Chapel Hill concerts in early April were part of an East Coast tour by the SF Symphony, and as the Chronicle reports, "Two concerts on April 7-8 in New York’s Carnegie Hall, featuring music by Bartók, Mahler, Cage and Shostakovich, will go ahead as planned."