Lawmakers introduce bipartisan Free Britney Act
Congressional relations might currently be “Toxic,” but sympathy for Britney Spears amid her conservatorship fight could be one of the few sentiments that still crosses the aisle.
Reps. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.) and Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) are joining together to introduce bipartisan legislation dubbed the Freedom and Right to Emancipate from Exploitation, or the FREE Act, also known as the Free Britney Act.
The bill, inspired by Spears’s very public battle against her 13-year conservatorship headed by her father, Jamie Spears, would beef up protections for those placed in guardianships.
It would give them the right to petition a judge to replace their private conservator and designate an independent caseworker to every case “to monitor signs of abuse,” among other protections. The legislation would also fund grants for states to create caseworker programs and hire additional state guardians “under the condition that all caseworkers and state guardians provide financial disclosure to avoid conflicts of interest.” States would also be required to provide annual reports about their area’s guardianships.
In shocking remarks before a Los Angeles judge last month, Spears decried her “abusive” conservatorship. The 39-year-old performer claimed she had been forced against her will to leave a birth control device in place and to take anti-psychotic medication that left her feeling “drunk.”
“I just want my life back, and it’s been 13 years, and it’s enough,” she said.
In a Tuesday news conference, Crist and Mace highlighted the bipartisan effort.
“The fact that we have a Democrat and Republican doing this in concert in Congress today is pretty extraordinary. We don’t see enough of that,” said Crist, who is running to replace Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) in next year’s midterm elections.
“This is really not a right versus left issue, this is a right versus wrong issue, and far too many times these things go wrong,” he added. “This legislation will give the individual the opportunity to petition that court to make sure that right prevails.”
Sporting a pink “Free Britney” T-shirt and appearing beside a poster showing an image of Spears with a black box placed over her mouth, Mace called the singer’s situation a “nightmare.”
“If it can happen to Britney Spears, it can happen to anyone in this country,” Mace said.
“It’s a rare sighting in Congress — especially when we are just so divided and our nation is divided — and this is one small way that we can make a big difference in bringing people together,” the freshman Republican said.
Mace said her office has received calls from both “progressives on the West Coast and conservatives on the East Coast” about Spears’s case. “They’re all in agreement that this is something that they care about; it’s an issue that many Americans care about. And this is not a Republican or Democrat issue, this is an American issue. This is a human rights issue.”
“I do believe we’re going to get strong bipartisan support on this legislation as members become aware of it,” Crist said.
Other lawmakers who span the political spectrum have jumped on Spears’s controversial conservatorship, which followed public mental health battles.
Citing Spears’s case, Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Bob Casey (Pa.) recently called on Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and Attorney General Merrick Garland to provide more data on the U.S. conservatorship system.
Last week, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) spoke at a Los Angeles demonstration protesting Spears’s conservatorship outside a critical court hearing for the entertainer.
Gaetz, along with three other GOP lawmakers, invited Spears earlier this month to testify before Congress about the conservatorship, saying she had been “mistreated by America’s legal system.”
Mace touted the proposed bill with Crist on Monday, saying, “It’s common sense, it’s pragmatic, it’s logical, it’s thought out, and it’s narrow enough that I truly believe we will get Republicans and Democrats on board so that it has the greatest chance of success.”
“I really want us to be able to work together,” Mace continued. “And this is one place where we can, and small parts do make a big difference and this is one of those pieces of legislation that I believe will truly deliver.”