Violinist Itzhak Perlman Cancels Performance Over LGBT Law

World-renowned violinist Itzhak Perlman said he canceled his Wednesday performance with the North Carolina Symphony after he was told he would not be able to include a personal statement opposing the state’s new law limiting antidiscrimination policies for LGBT people in the event program.

In an interview with the Associated Press on Tuesday, Perlman said he will not perform in North Carolina until the law is reversed.

Photo: Evan Vucci/AP, file
Performing during the National Menorah lighting in celebration of Hanukkah near the White House in Washington

“If I’m invited, I will come once the law’s repealed. But as long as this thing is there, I have to take a stand,” Perlman said.

Perlman had said he wanted to proceed with the concert to support the 66 professional musicians employed by the symphony in Raleigh. He said he intended to donate the concert proceeds to LGBT advocacy group Equality North Carolina following the lead of musicians like Cyndi Lauper and comedian Louis C.K.

But Perlman reversed the decision Tuesday after he said symphony management told him they could not print his opposition to the bill in the program.

In a statement, symphony spokeswoman Linda Charlton said the symphony could not accommodate the request.

“The North Carolina Symphony welcomes all people with our hearts and minds open, and we are honored to share our music-making with everyone. However, as a non-partisan organization, our performances are not an appropriate forum for political commentary,” Charlton said.

The symphony is an entity of the state Department of Natural and Cultural Resources and governed and operated by a 60-person board that includes Republican Gov. Pat McCrory. Charlton said the symphony received $4.07 million in state funding for the 2015-2016 season.

Perlman, who contracted polio as a child and learned to walk using crutches, said he is concerned the law erases protections for minorities and people who are disabled.

“It’s hostile and ugly,” he said. “They call it the bathroom bill, but that’s only one iota of what it’s all about. The important thing is what the bill does across the board.”

The North Carolina Republican Party immediately responded with a comment calling the cancellation an example of “hypocrisy and selective outrage from the far-left that does nothing but hurt ordinary North Carolinians.” The statement from Chairman Robin Hayes noted that Perlman has gone forward with performances in other states that have opposed expanded protections for members of the LGBT community.

“They can say what they want to say, but let me say what I want to say,” Perlman said.

Perlman became the latest of a series of renowned musicians to protest the law.

Popstar Elton John also lambasted North Carolina lawmakers in an editorial for D.C.-based political news source The Hill on Tuesday, saying continued support of the law shows ignorance and lack of compassion for vulnerable groups.

“This brand of ignorance deliberately shuts out the perspective of an already marginalized community,” John wrote in the editorial. “It’s dangerous, and it goes beyond bathrooms. As the father of two children, I would hope their world is free of discriminatory, hateful legislation like North Carolina’s.

Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam and the rock group Boston are among other musical performers who have canceled their shows due to the law.