COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Prompted by Britney Spears’ conservatorship fight, a bipartisan legislative effort has emerged to reform the process created to protect the rights of more than 1 million people across the United States under the protective arrangements.
On Tuesday, Reps. Charlie Crist and Nancy Mace unveiled “The Free Britney Act,” designed to give more options to people placed under conservatorships. Those include the ability to talk about their situations with caseworkers — over any objections from their conservators — and petition a court to replace their conservators without having to “prove wrongdoing or malfeasance.”
“This is just a commonsense approach to doing what is right, to making sure that rights are balanced,” Crist, a Florida Democrat, said during a virtual news conference on Tuesday.
Both Mace, a Republican from South Carolina, and Crist said it was Spears’ passionate plea last month that a judge end the conservatorship that controls her life and money that spurred their proposal.
“What she had was an opportunity to do is bring to light, to shine a light, on those abuses,” Mace said. “Her situation is a nightmare, and if it can happen to Britney Spears, it can happen to anyone in this country.”
Speaking in open court, Spears condemned her father and others who control the conservatorship, put in place as Spears underwent a mental health crisis in 2008. Spears said that the arrangement has compelled her to use birth control and take other medications against her will, and prevented her from getting married or having another child.
Spears’ father and his attorneys have emphasized that she and her fortune, which court records put at more than $50 million, remain vulnerable to fraud and manipulation. Under current law, the burden is on Spears to prove she is competent before the case could end.
Mace and Crist said they expected more bipartisan support for the measure, which would also provide at least $260 million in grant funds for states to hire caseworkers or conservators.
The #FreeBritney movement has already crossed party lines.
“Everyone deserves control over their own body. Period,” U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark of Massachusetts, the fourth-ranking House Democrat, tweeted last month following Spears’ testimony.
Some House Republicans have invited Spears to testify before Congress. The political arm of the House Republican caucus sent texts that described Ms. Spears as “a victim of toxic gov’t overreach & censorship.”
Earlier this month, Florida Republican U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, a close ally of former President Donald Trump, made a brief appearance addressing the Spears supporters outside the downtown Los Angels courthouse, at one point shouting “Free Britney!”
Meg Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP.