SALT LAKE CITY — Advocates held a "#Free Britney“ rally at the Utah State Capitol Wednesday, as the movement regarding the pop star's conservatorship by her father has placed a spotlight on the restrictions that can be imposed upon anyone deemed to be unfit to care for themselves.
In Utah, conservatorship is just control over someone's money, not all decision-making, but guardianship imposes many more restrictions. Each state has its own set of laws.
“Essentially, they go through a court process and the court makes a determination on whether or not they should have their rights to make decisions about whatever the guardianship or conservatorship covers taken away,” explains Nate Crippes, Public Affairs Supervising Attorney with the Disability Law Center.
The goal of the rally is to shed light on the issue of conservatorship beyond just the pop-stars struggles, Shannon Egan, Free Britney Movement Utah leader, said.
“The reason we are doing this is to not only shed light on Britney Spear’s conservatorship but to ask for the U.S. congress to reform the entire system,” she said.
People need to be able to maintain their independence, Psarah Johnson, Disabled Rights Action Committee Board Chair, said.
“What we are seeing right now is finally some attention being paid to a very serious issue that affects over a million people in the United States,” she said.
“From our perspective, I think we would think every person should retain their right to make decisions," Crippes said. "There are a number of things one could do to, essentially an alternative to a guardianship or conservatorship and they are actually fairly simple."
This includes having home healthcare workers help with activities of daily living, such as bathing, eating, or getting dressed, or representative payees, who can help beneficiaries manage their payments.
“When you look at a guardianship, over the years what we see is clients we talk to will say, ‘I just want to make a decision about where I live’ ‘I just want to make a decision about who I date’ and things of that nature," added Crippes.
He hopes that the #FreeBritney movement will help people understand the problems that can occur with guardianship, where rights are taken away from people wanting inclusion and independence.
“I don’t think the case with Britney is any different than what you would see here, it is just really hard. Once you have a court decide that a person is under a guardianship, it is just hard to convince them to pull that back.”
He also hopes the system will change to allow for more limited guardianships, along with better education of alternatives for the courts and the medical community. Information about guardianship in Utah can be found here.