Republican U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger represents the 9th Congressional District, covering portions of Charlotte, Mecklenburg County and Iredell County.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Local representatives with the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights organization and North Carolina’s statewide LGBT advocacy group will deliver more than 30,000 signed petitions to U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger on Thursday. The petitions, encouraging Pittenger to support LGBT-inclusive workplace protections, come in response to his recent remarks that the ability to fire gays is one of the “freedoms we enjoy.”

Representatives with the Human Rights Campaign and Equality North Carolina will deliver the petitions to Pittenger’s Charlotte office at 8:45 a.m. on Thursday.

The petitions read, in part, “I am writing to express my outrage at your recent comments that businesses should have the “freedom” to fire or refuse to hire lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. Firing someone based on their sexual orientation or gender identity isn’t freedom — it’s discrimination.”

Pittenger, who represents portions of Charlotte, Mecklenburg County and Iredell County, recently said the ability of employers to discriminate against LGBT employees is one of “the freedoms we enjoy” as Americans. Government, he says, shouldn’t intervene in the affairs of private employers, including their hiring and firing policies.

Pittenger had expanded on his thoughts with a Alice Ollstein, a reporter from ThinkProgress. After a Ballantyne town hall meeting this month, he compared the ability to fire gays to smoking bans.

“Do you ban smoking or do people have the right to private property? I think people have the right to private property,” Pittenger told Ollstein. “In public spaces, absolutely, we can have smoking bans. But we don’t want to micromanage people’s lives and businesses. If you have a business, do you want the government to come in and tell you you need to hire somebody? Why should government be there to impose on the freedoms we enjoy?”

Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.