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Country music’s new leaders struggle to get on right side of history

The abrupt ouster last month of Mike Huckabee from the Country Music Association’s charitable board just 24 hours after his appointment sends a strong signal that Nashville’s cultural revolution is in full swing.

An organized right-wing backlash against the removal of the conservative gadfly and presidential aspirant quickly fizzled, and Music City breathed a sigh of relief. The swiftness of the forced departure of Huckabee, who has been vocal about his support for the NRA and objections to same-sex marriage and parenting, underscores how the country music industry has become a nexus of discussion for two of America’s hot-button topics: gun control and gay rights.

In stepping down from the position, Huckabee bitterly publicized his stance by posting his resignation letter on social media with the headline “Hate Wins” — far from how most of the town saw the decision.

Brothers Osborne (left) represent a new generation of country stars with liberal views and progressive actions (such as featuring a gay couple in their video for “Stay a Little Longer”). Says radio personality Blair Garner (right): “Nashville is a blue island in a sea of red.”

Jason Owen, one of the most powerful managers in Nashville, had led the charge against Huckabee’s appointment with a strongly worded letter to the CMA in which he threatened to pull all of Sandbox’s artists, including Faith Hill, Little Big Town and Kacey Musgraves, from the organization’s future philanthropic endeavors. At issue for Owen, an openly gay man with “a child and two on the way,” was Huckabee’s long record of comparing the children of same-sex parents to “guinea pigs” and “puppies.” “This man has made it clear that my family is not welcome in his America,” Owen wrote. “And the CMA has [made] him feel welcome and relevant.”

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