CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Opposition to pending LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination ordinances has grown in recent days, with leading anti-LGBT activists and religious leaders latching onto to an often-used scare tactic tying transgender community members to predators.
Charlotte City Council is due to hear the several ordinance changes on Monday, Feb. 23. The changes will add five categories — marital status, familial status, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression — to four existing city non-discrimination ordinances.
But anti-LGBT voices have turned their attention primarily to gender identity and gender expression, blasting the proposed changes as a “bathroom bill” and saying it will violate private business’ so-called “religious liberty.”
“This expansion of Charlotte’s nondiscrimination law would not only threaten the religious liberty of Christian business owners,” NC Values Coalition, the state’s leading anti-LGBT lobbying group, wrote to supporters on Tuesday, “but it will also threaten the safety of women and children in Charlotte’s public restrooms because it will require public restrooms to be open to use by persons of any sex. This means that any man claiming to identify as a woman would be allowed to use a public women’s restroom!”
Advocates in favor of the change say opponents are relying on an often-used scare tactic. They say that no evidence exists pointing to alleged abuses by transgender people using public restrooms. Further, they point out, the law change will not create unisex restrooms or sanction access for predators.
“This law has nothing to do with bathrooms, nor will it affect policies regulating the use of public bathrooms,” a fact sheet from the Charlotte Non-Discrimination Ordinance Coalition reads. “Only people who are actually transgender are protected by this law. This law in no way protects people who pretend to be the opposite gender any more than a law would protect someone who faked a disability or a religion. The behavior some people are describing, men pretending to be women to access the restroom, is criminal behavior and this ordinance would not change that in any way.”
In a joint statement Tuesday, the coalition called on Charlotte leaders to “pass these vital protections now.” More than 200 cities, including Columbia and Myrtle Beach, have passed similar LGBT-inclusive ordinances.
“It is finally time for Charlotte to catch up with its peers and pass these vital protections now that can help shield our neighbors from arbitrary discrimination,” the groups said. “Updating these ordinances will not only strengthen the community by fostering an atmosphere of dignity, respect, and inclusivity, but also send a strong message that Charlotte is a welcoming place to live, work, and raise a family.”
They added, “Charlotte is one of only three of the nation’s 20 largest cities that does not have inclusive non-discrimination ordinances protecting LGBT people in public accommodations and fair housing.”
NC Values Coalition, which led the state’s 2012 anti-LGBT marriage amendment campaign, has primarily led the push against the ordinance so far. They’ve managed to gain the support of a variety of leaders across the state.
The Rev. Phillip Davis, pastor of the 1,700-member Nations Ford Community Church, is among NC Values Coalition’s supporters. In an email to Charlotte City Council, Davis complained the non-discrimination ordinance would be discriminatory against him and other Christians.
“While we do not condone discrimination of any sort…when do we stand up for the fact that those of us who do not agree, are also being discriminated against by being forced to adhere to values that are against our beliefs?” Davis asked.
The Rev. Mark Harris, pastor of First Baptist Church and former president of the North Carolina State Baptist Convention, has also come out against the ordinance proposals.
NC Values Coalition plans to hold a rally against the ordinance changes before Monday night’s Council meeting. They’ll meet at 4:15 p.m. at the government center.
Advocates for the changes are planning their own press conference at 10:30 a.m. that morning, with representatives from a variety of groups pushing for the changes. The Charlotte Non-Discrimination Ordinance Coalition includes Mecklenburg LGBT Political Action Committee (MeckPAC), Charlotte Business Guild, Equality NC, Human Rights Campaign, LGBT Democrats of Mecklenburg County, Genderlines, Straight Allies Charlotte, Democracy NC and ACLU of North Carolina.