Charlotte is a beautiful place to live, to work, to raise a family and to pursue opportunities in education and business. But, for some, discrimination and prejudice stand in the way of full opportunity. That’s especially true for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Charlotteans, and an effort to begin addressing these concerns has taken front seat over the past couple weeks.
On March 2, Charlotte City Council will consider new LGBT-inclusive ordinance changes that aim to fully protect all of the Queen City’s residents, adding new protections to the city’s public accommodations, commercial contracting, community relations committee and passenger vehicle for hire ordinances.
Opponents of the measure have grasped upon fears and prejudices against transgender people in an attempt to derail the conversation and stop the proposal’s passage. They have painted transgender women as predators.
They are both inaccurate on the ordinance changes’ effects and dangerously biased and ignorant on the experiences of transgender people.
In reality, this proposal changes nothing about bathrooms. The proposal seeks to protect transgender individuals and ensure their safety. Individuals “pretending” to be the opposite gender in order to access the women’s restroom for predatory purposes would not be protected. In fact, such behavior is already criminal. We have ways of dealing with abusers and predators. This proposal would not change that.
And, the facts are clear: transgender people are more likely to be the victims of harassment or abuse. It’s even happened here in Charlotte, where a transgender student was harassed by Central Piedmont Community College security and then escorted off campus. There is no documented evidence anywhere in the nation of a transgender person accessing restrooms for predatory purposes.
Opponents arguments are, then, red herrings and distractions from the real issues at hand.
Should we be surprised? No.
The same groups and individuals opposing broader local LGBT protections are the same people who pushed North Carolina’s now-overturned, unconstitutional ban on LGBT marriage equality in 2012, a discriminatory measure rejected by more than 92,000 voters in Mecklenburg County. They are the same people who say that government officials, like magistrates or judges, and business owners should be able to freely discriminate against any citizen they choose. They are the same people who once opposed a statewide anti-bullying law, simply because it also protected gay students. Their positions represent an overturning of the rule of law in favor of a theocratic society that endangers the lives of sexual, gender, religious and other minorities — including even the mistreatment of children and youth — not a defense of the fair, inclusive and equal republic to which all Americans, North Carolinians and Charlotteans are truly and eternally devoted.
Charlotte City Council should ignore the hate-filled arguments of those who have repeatedly proven they stand only for discrimination and division.
Instead, Charlotte should witness the wisdom and experiences of over 17 states and more than 200 local governments who have passed similar ordinances, laws or policies — all to no ill-effect. That includes cities and towns close to Charlotte, like South Carolina’s Columbia, Charleston, Folly Beach and Myrtle Beach. These proposals are commonsense public policy.
Charlotte City Council must vote to pass these LGBT-inclusive proposals. More than two decades after it first voted down similar proposals in 1992, the city has an opportunity to prove it is a place where all people — regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity — are welcomed and included in all aspects of the city’s progress and opportunity.