This thought has occurred to me many times over the last couple of years. A bisexual woman myself, even as a young teen resolute in the idea I was straight, I have always supported gay rights, and gay people’s feature in country music has long fascinated me. So, for my own benefit, to weigh up the situation, and to give some collective insight for you guys, I thought I’d actually put together a list of all the country artists who have concretely come out in support of gay rights, or marriage equality, or something similar. We all need a win, and as more and more people in this industry give equal love and tolerance the green light, it’s great to see the breadth of the situation and be thankful that we have got to this point. After all, sometimes we need to dwell on the positives, even if we still have a long way to go.
NB: All the artists’ names are hyperlinked to the evidence that shows their support.
Carrie Underwood came out in support of gay marriage in summer 2012 to The Independent newspaper, citing that it was not her place to judge. She also said she couldn’t imagine not being able to marry the person she loved, and that we should all just love one another. The conservative Christian did raise some eyebrows and create some backlash with her words, but it’s become one of the most famous recent examples of country stars supporting marriage equality.
In addition to writing and recording the song ‘Follow Your Arrow’ (with her two gay co-writers Shane McAnally and Brandy Clark), which includes the line “make lots of noise, kiss lots of boys, or kiss lots of girls if that’s something you’re into”, Kacey Musgraves has spoken a lot about her support and love for gay people, going beyond tolerance to all-out advocate. She also performed at the GLAAD Awards earlier this year – the first country artist ever to do so.
Gigging in the Atlanta, Georgia scene before she broke out as a member of Sugarland, Jennifer Nettles has long had a gay fanbase and been part of the gay music scene, as well as being inspired by a lot of the music from publicly gay artists. She joked to PrideSource that she’s the only person who’s ever had to come out as straight, because back then a lot of fans assumed she was a lesbian. Still, she continues to promote love and support for the gay community.
Talking to Out in 2009, Martina McBride revealed that she teaches tolerance and equality to her three daughters, and asks that of her fans as well, believing that we should embrace each other’s differences.
LeAnn Rimes has long been a supporter of gay rights, and back in 2011 undertook a photoshoot for the NOH8 campaign, as well as performing with the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles.
Garth Brooks’ late half-sister Betsy was gay, and Garth outed her (to her dismay) during a performance of his gay anthem ‘We Shall Be Free’, which promotes loving who we choose. He also won a GLAAD Award for the song in 1993.
Dolly Parton has been one of the most vehement advocates of gay rights, having a huge gay following, and a couple of years ago officially came out in support of gay marriage. “I think everyone should be with who they love,” she said.
Laura Bell Bundy came out fiercely in support of the gay community following the controversy with Chick-fil-A a few years ago (they are a strongly anti-gay establishment). She accredited much of her rise to fame and success to gay friends and employees and asserted that bigotry is wrong.
A side project of the two Dixie Chicks sisters Emily and Martie, the Court Yard Hounds released their self-titled debut album in 2010, including an album track called ‘Ain’t No Son’. It was inspired by a documentary that Emily had seen where families kick out their sons when they find out they’re gay, and she expressed disturbance at the idea that people would reject their own children just for loving the same sex.
Following her return to releasing music last year and the debut of a much shorter, quote “lesbianish” haircut, Natalie Maines discussed the loyalty of her gay fanbase, from the Dixie Chicks to now.
Having had a big gay fanbase for much of her career, Wynonna has promoted a love-thy-neighbor attitude, claiming, “we’re all God’s people”, and that drag queens impersonating her is flattering.
In true Toby Keith fashion, he dismissed the heated debate over whether gay people should be allowed to get married by saying that it was their business, and that he doesn’t care whether somebody is gay or not. He also said people were wasting a lot of time and resources trying to stop gay marriage, where it could be used elsewhere.
Reba McEntire spoke to Out in 2009 about how we shouldn’t judge people for their sexuality, and that she keeps an open mind. She also stated that she has gay friends.
Tim McGraw made a surprise visit to Grassland Middle School in 2010 on the request of his nephew, a student there. It was after another student had shot himself following anti-gay bullying, and Tim spoke at the school about the dangers of bullying (although admittedly, he didn’t really broach the subject of homophobia).
Willie Nelson expressed his staunch belief in gay rights last year, following the debates in the US Supreme Court about gay marriage in the various states. He surmised that people are people, and all deserve equal treatment and protection under the law. He also recorded a song for the Brokeback Mountain soundtrack.
In 2009 Rascal Flatts released a track called ‘Love Who You Love’, which they publicly spoke about inspiring their many gay friends who had struggled to come out to their parents, or were rejected once they did.
Last year Shania Twain was one of the first country stars to tweet when the Supreme Court ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional, and that married gay couples should receive tax, health and pension benefits. She tweeted her congratulations, with the hashtag #LoveIsLove.