CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Former Mayor Anthony Foxx, currently the U.S. secretary of transportation, became the latest federal official yesterday to personally endorse same-sex marriage, as current Mayor Dan Clodfelter also offers personal support in advance of today’s federal Court of Appeals case on neighboring Virginia’s anti-LGBT constitutional amendment.
Foxx’s comments, in reply to a question from the Washington Blade‘s White House reporter Chris Johnson, is the first time Foxx has spoken about his personal beliefs on the issue, despite having come out opposed to North Carolina’s 2012 anti-LGBT constitutional amendment when he was mayor.
“I support same-sex marriage,” Foxx said at a White House briefing on Monday. “Who someone loves should never be an issue at work, or any place else.”
During his time in Charlotte, Foxx was the first sitting mayor to attend a public town hall with the LGBT community. Unlike his predecessor, current Gov. Pat McCrory, Foxx also attended and spoke at a Charlotte Pride event and issued welcome letters for that event and others, including the annual Human Rights Campaign Carolina Gala.
“As the mayor, I was the first mayor to even go meet with the LGBT community,” Foxx recounted at the briefing. “I was, unlike my predecessors, someone who went out, and then went to the annual Human Rights Campaign dinner and signed a letter. I did a lot things, but this is a place where I think the country’s attitudes are shifting and I think North Carolina got it wrong. I hope they get it right.”
Still, Foxx never came out publicly in support of full marriage equality and, though an ally to the community, often led softly and quietly on the issue. Though he pushed for behind-the-scenes policy changes, Foxx never advocated for public Council votes on LGBT-inclusive employment policies, and he declined to comment publicly before as well as after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8.
Clodfelter: ‘I would support that, too’
Sitting Mayor Dan Clodfelter is also speaking out on his personal support for marriage equality.
In an interview conducted last week for a feature slated for publication on May 23, Clodfelter told qnotes he, too, would support full marriage equality.
Clodfelter responded affirmatively when asked if he would follow the example of City Councilmember Patsy Kinsey, who served briefly as mayor last year, and join Freedom to Marry’s national Mayors for Marriage coalition.
“I would support that, too,” he said during the interview in the mayor’s office.
Clodfelter also spoke briefly on the importance of inclusion, saying it was “absolutely essential” to the city.
“This is a very diverse community in all kinds of ways and I think it’s one of its great strengths,” Clodfelter said. “You can’t move forward if you’re constantly sort of treating any group of your community as if they don’t belong or if they are not really full citizens of the community. You’re shackling yourself. You can’t do that to anybody.”
Clodfelter became mayor on April 9, following former Mayor Patrick Cannon’s resignation. Clodfelter stepped down from his state Senate seat, which he took in 1999, to serve as mayor.
In the Senate, he was an ally — a co-sponsor of the 2009 School Violence Prevention Act and, in 2011, voted against putting the state’s 2012 anti-LGBT marriage amendment on the ballot.
“That amendment, we kept it bottled up in committee for many years and wouldn’t let it out — almost a decade,” Clodfelter said.
In that decade, he said he’d witnessed great change.
“I remember every election cycle we would poll the question on all our private polling as a caucus,” he recounted. “Then, when the vote was taken on the amendment … what I remember was — wow — was all the movement over the decade of the polling we had seen privately on the issue to the actual vote on the amendment was a sea change in itself. A decade ago, you would not have even broken 20 percent on the issue and here we were pushing 40 and above, and I thought, it’s just a question of time.”
Before his time in the state Senate, Clodfelter also served as a member of City Council from 1987 to 1993.
It was on Council in November 1992 that Clodfelter took a publicly-inclusive stand on non-discrimination efforts. He was one of only four Council members to support a proposed employment policy and public accommodations ordinance that included sexual orientation. Notably, current Gov. McCrory, a Council member at the time, voted against the measure.
According to Council minutes from that meeting, Clodfelter told his colleagues that he had “been struck during the time he has been in Charlotte, that after knowing an individual for a period of time he learned they were gay. Every time it has happened it has caused him to stop and reflect on his encounters with that individual before he knew they were gay, his work experiences, his life experiences on a community activity and he has always had to say how would I have treated this person differently had I known they were gay. He cannot find that he should have acted differently.”
On public accommodations, Clodfelter told Council that businesses shouldn’t be able to discriminate against the public.
“…[I]n America when a business says they are a public business, that has a special meaning,” Clodfelter said according to minutes. “Public means all of us, where ever we came from with all our sins, flaws and failings. That is what a public accommodations ordinance is about.”
Clodfelter remembered that vote last week.
“I was on City Council when the manager brought [it] forward,” Clodfelter said. “I remember we lost on that vote … and I think how far things have progressed in the city since then.”
In 2010, former City Manager Curt Walton added sexual orientation to the city’s employment non-discrimination policy, following up in December 2012, right before his retirement, by adding gender identity. Earlier that year, Council also approved Walton’s proposed city budget, including his addition of domestic partner benefits for city employees. Yet, in the more than two decades since Clodfelter’s affirmative vote for inclusion, Council has not directly taken up another specific vote on LGBT inclusion.
more: A full feature and interview with Mayor Dan Clodfelter will appear in the May 23, 2014, print edition and online.