Last year, current Charlotte City Councilmember Warren Turner faced allegations that he had engaged in sexual harassment of four female city employees.
The employees’ claims, which an independent investigator found were consistent and credible, led to efforts to censure Turner though the council voted 6-3 against doing so. But, Turner eventually lost his job as a probation officer with the North Carolina Department of Corrections, though the official reason for his firing stemmed from unrelated activities.
The allegations of sexual harassment included anti-gay behavior. One of the employees, whom Turner thought was lesbian, said the councilmember said she needed a “real man.”
According to the independent investigator’s report, as we reported at the time (see goqnotes.com/6423/), Turner asked the employee about a picture of actor Shemar Moore on a mug in her office. The employee said the actor was her motivation.
“You don’t need that, I should be your motivation,” said Turner. “You need a real man to be your motivation!”
The report exposed further details.
“Council Member Turner further stated that he later spoke with Council Member Mitchell after that evening and told Council Member Mitchell he had been surprised to learn that Employee A had a fiancé because he thought that she was ‘gay,’” the report read. “Council Member Mitchell confirmed Council Member Turner called him on the telephone following a town meeting and said he was surprised to learn Employee A had a fiancé. Council Member Mitchell also recalls that Council Member Turner said: ‘I thought she was a lesbian.’”
Now, Turner faces an electoral challenge from within his own party. Democrat LaWana Mayfield launched her primary bid for Turner’s seat on May 7. (See story, “Mayfield announces bid for Charlotte council“).
Mayfield says her campaign isn’t about beating an incumbent. She outright denies the sexual harassment allegations had anything to do with her decision to run. But, I’m betting Turner might just see things differently. I’m also betting Mayfield’s campaign is among Turner’s worst nightmares.
We already know Turner is a misogynist and homophobic. Just imagine: an elected official with less than appealing views on women and lesbians getting the boot from voters who instead choose his primary challenger, an out lesbian with a history of progressive activism.
There’s some pretty powerful, poetic and ironic justice brewing in all this.
Called to social justice
In preparing for this issue, qnotes staff sought to bring you stories about people and organizations making a real difference in other people’s lives.
Hunger and poverty. Education and equality. Support and encouragement. The work being done by J.D. Lewis and his sons, Bishop Tonyia Rawls and her church and Freedom Center for Social Justice and the staff of Time Out Youth make perfect examples of the types of work that creates change. Such opportunities bring civil, social, economic and educational justice to the “least of these” living among us.
Anti-gay opponents and “pro-family” religious activists often like to paint themselves as the only true arbiters of right and wrong. They also try to corner the market on what it means to be “Christian.” Good Samaritans, however, come in all shapes and forms. LGBT people, too, can be servants of good and agents of change. One mustn’t even be a Christian to live out the principles that guide movements for social justice. In fact, those principles aren’t “Christian” — they’re human. And, each and every one of us can be called to social justice.
By living our lives with integrity, honesty and charity, we can make a difference in the lives of our families, friends, neighbors and communities. By living such lives, we show our own humanity. That humanity opens doors of equality as we come to know close friends or perfect strangers one-on-one.
Christians know Jesus’ teaching: “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” So, too, shall all know that LGBT people are truly human and deserving of our own inherent worth and dignity. : :