Lawmakers unveil bipartisan bill to ‘Free Britney,’ targeting conservatorships’ abuse
(CNN) — Two House lawmakers are proposing bipartisan legislation they hope will protect those under legal guardianships and conservatorships from abuse and exploitation amid pop star Britney Spears’ fight to end her years-long court-ordered conservatorship.
Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist of Florida and Republican Rep. Nancy Mace of South Carolina on Tuesday unveiled their Freedom and Right to Emancipate from Exploitation Act, the FREE Act, during a virtual news conference.
Conservatorships are legal arrangements that give a court-appointed individual, known as the conservator, the power to handle the financial and/or personal affairs of another adult who has been deemed incapacitated.
The FREE Act would allow a person under a legal guardianship or conservatorship the right to petition the court to have their court-appointed guardian replaced with a public guardian.
The bill would also guarantee that individuals under guardianships are assigned an independent case worker, and require case workers and public guardians disclose their finances to ensure there’s no conflict of interest.
The legislation would also require states to provide “an up to date” database on how many people are under guardianships or conservatorships.
“Under the FREE Act, we would Free Britney along with the countless number of seniors and persons with disabilities being abused and exploited by the broken system,” Crist said in a statement.
In announcing their bill Tuesday, the two lawmakers said that the legislation is narrowly crafted so to attract further bipartisanship support and “has the greatest chance of success.”
Spears’ case and the heightened attention on conservatorships followed the February release of The New York Times documentary “Framing Britney Spears,” which examines her court-ordered conservatorship that’s been in place since 2008.
An estimated 1.3 million adults in the US are under similarly restrictive arrangements, according to the Justice Department.
In a hearing last month, Spears broke her silence about her conservatorship, pleading with a judge to end the “abusive” arrangement. She described how she had been forced to perform, made to use birth control despite wanting a baby and put on lithium against her will, among other concerning details.
On Tuesday, Mace thanked Spears for “her courage” to come forward about her conservatorship experience, and for bringing attention to the abuse other Americans can face under such legal arrangements.
“Her situation is a nightmare. If it can happen to Britney Spears, it can happen to anyone in this country,” Mace said, standing before a “Free Britney” poster.
Appearing with the lawmakers Tuesday, Cassandra Dumas, co-founder and spokesperson of Free Britney America, said her team is hopeful that this proposed legislation will give conservatees their voices back, while providing accountability and protection against abuses in the system.
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