CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Organizers pushing for new LGBT-inclusive changes to city non-discrimination ordinances say a lobbying push from a statewide anti-LGBT organization represents an “extreme” anti-LGBT view that doesn’t mirror the city or its residents.
The North Carolina Values Coalition, headed by anti-LGBT lobbyist Tami Fitzgerald, led the state’s 2012 anti-LGBT marriage amendment campaign. On Wednesday, they emailed supporters, telling them to speak out against proposals that would add, among other characteristics, sexual orientation and gender identity to four non-discrimination ordinances in Charlotte.
Fitzgerald’s group is primarily attacking transgender people, and alleging a public accommodations ordinance will lead to abuse.
“By passing this ordinance, the Charlotte City Council will put women and children in Charlotte in danger,” the email read.
Paige Dula, chair of Genderlines, a local transgender group, has been helping lead the push for ordinance changes. She says Fitzgerald is utilizing common scare tactics and prejudices.
“It’s certainly damaging on a personal level. It’s disheartening to hear these personal attacks,” Dula said. “It’s scary to have these types of people be so out against you.”
Restroom use was a sticking point among some Charlotte Council members when the proposals were briefly discussed on Monday, but LGBT advocates say transgender people are much more likely to be victimized, assaulted or harassed in restrooms — not the other way around.
“It is sometimes very dangerous for a transgender person,” Cathryn Oakley, state and local legal counsel for the Human Rights Campaign, told Council on Monday. “The potential threat is that they will be harassed in the bathroom. By passing this ordinance, what you’d be saying is that people should be allowed to use the restroom in peace, that this is a basic human function that people need to be able to do comfortably and safely.”
Staffers at the National Center for Transgender Equality told qnotes much the same thing on Monday, saying they hadn’t heard of a single documented case of harassment or abuse carried out by a transgender person in a public restroom.
Violence or discrimination directed toward transgender people, however, is often reported or visible — even in Charlotte.
Last spring, a transgender student at Central Piedmont Community College was harassed by campus security and then escorted off campus after using a restroom corresponding to her gender. (See an archive of those stories here.)
The North Carolina Values Coalition is urging their supporters, both inside and outside Charlotte, to contact Council members.
“This ordinance absolutely must be stopped. Even if you don’t live in Charlotte, please take action today,” the group said. “People from across the state need to wake up and take a stand against the City Council of Charlotte and the Human Rights Campaign.”
Dula doesn’t think the Values Coalition or their supporters will have much effect on the proposed ordinances.
“I don’t think this extra lobbying will sway anyone on Council,” she said. “I think [Council members] have pretty much decided which way they are going to vote.”
Cameron Joyce, president of Mecklenburg County’s LGBT Democratic caucus, agrees with Dula, and says the Values Coalition doesn’t represent the city, calling them the “extreme anti-LGBT religious right.”
“I don’t think they represent the majority of our city and where our city is on LGBT rights and on these ordinances,” Joyce said.
Joyce wants LGBT community members and straight allies to also contact their Council representatives.