This issue, qnotes prints the sit-down interviews we recently held with both the Republican and Democratic candidates for Charlotte mayor. It’s the first time the newspaper has had the opportunity to speak to mayoral candidates of both major parties, the first time both parties’ candidates have spoken so candidly on LGBT issues and the first time LGBT voters, generally, will have the option to choose between two candidates both relatively favorable on local LGBT equality issues.
The latter is an astonishing feat given Charlotte’s less-than-LGBT-friendly political history. Until 2009, the city was led for 14 years by now-Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican whose cold-shoulder approach to LGBT organizations and causes stifled the city’s progress on a range of issues. After McCrory, Democrat and former Mayor Anthony Foxx was outspoken with his support for LGBT equality, but only so in front of friendly audiences, doing his best to straddle the line between progressive leadership and Charlotte’s more traditionally-conservative nature.
But, now, both mayoral candidates are unafraid to sit down with the city’s LGBT press and speak openly on a variety of issues. It’s an achievement long in the making, heralded by advocacy — both organized and that of a more personal nature — from LGBT residents who have long worked to cultivate an accepting, progressive and LGBT-inclusive Charlotte.
In past campaigns for City Council, Democrat Patrick Cannon and Republican Edwin Peacock III have both been endorsed by the Mecklenburg LGBT Political Action Committee (MeckPAC). Peacock garnered qnotes’ endorsement in 2011. Both are supportive of an LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination policy implemented by former City Manager Curt Walton. Both supported domestic partner benefits for LGBT employees, their spouses or partners and their families.
In our interviews, both Cannon and Peacock say they are open to taking a look at further LGBT protections in the city’s Commercial Non-Discrimination Ordinance and public accommodations and fair housing ordinances.
But, on two particular issues, the candidates, I believe, prove lacking.
First, neither candidate seems as educated or as aware as they might probably should be on general topics relating to LGBT people and equality. I was dismayed that Cannon referred to sexual orientation as a “lifestyle” and other similar language. I was disappointed Peacock didn’t readily understand why anti-gay discrimination might have been a problem before the city adopted its newer, more inclusive employment policy.
That’s not to say Cannon or Peacock aren’t friends to our community. I genuinely believe they are. Yet, friends and allies — and even LGBT residents and activists themselves — can benefit from more education. But, I did expect better. I expect my candidates — especially for mayor — to understand the issues that affect our community, and I definitely wasn’t prepared to hear Cannon use loaded terms like “practicing,” “exploring” or “engaging in” a “lifestyle” when describing LGBT people and their lives.
Second, the candidates’ positions on marriage equality were disappointing. I was delighted to hear that Cannon voted against Amendment One, last year’s anti-LGBT marriage amendment to the state’s constitution, in keeping with his general outlook against discrimination. Peacock’s opposition to the amendment has been long known, ever since he denounced it two months before voters approved it in May 2012.
Yet, I was not satisfied by either candidates’ answers on where they stood personally on full equality under the law for same-sex couples.
Cannon says “to each his or her own” and that he’s “not here to be anybody’s judge,” but ultimately, “it’s something that personally I don’t subscribe to.” Peacock supports civil unions and domestic partnerships, but believes each state should be left to decide the matter on its own — a prospect becoming more and more tenuous as more states recognize same-sex couples’ marriages and more couples are left living in the frightening legal limbo between federal recognition and being treated as mere strangers in their home states.
The candidates’ positions on marriage equality, in particular, are explored more in our story with University of North Carolina-Charlotte political science professor Eric Heberlig, who provides some interesting insight.
Ultimately, the issue of marriage is one neither Cannon nor Peacock will likely address if either are elected mayor. But, it does remain an increasingly important indicator and lens through which voters, LGBT citizens in particular, can judge their candidates’ worldview. And, if either Cannon or Peacock aspire to higher office — much like McCrory or Foxx — it is a question that will likely face them in the future when they are in the position to make a tangible difference.
Both Cannon and Peacock deserve applause and gratitude for helping to make local LGBT history in Charlotte. LGBT voters can rest easy knowing that either will operate with an open door, open mind and open ears if they are elected to lead our fair city. Their positions on LGBT equality are nearly identical, and we’re glad we were able to engage them in conversation on a much wider range of issues affecting our city.
But, based on the two concerns discussed here — primarily, the candidates’ positions on marriage — and after consultation with the rest of the qnotes staff, we have chosen to endorse neither Cannon nor Peacock in their race for mayor this year.
The candidates’ full interviews can be viewed in their entirety online at goqnotes.com/in/election-2013/, where LGBT voters can read about the candidates’ views in their own voices and determine their choice for mayor based not solely on LGBT equality initiatives, but also on the candidates’ positions on topics like economic development, business incentives, transit and more. : :