CHARLOTTE, N.C. — An effort to pass LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination ordinances in Charlotte is attracting opposition from across the state and nation, with national leaders in the religious right speaking out against the proposal in the city.
Franklin Graham, president of his father’s Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, spoke out Thursday against the proposals to pass LGBT-inclusve public accommodations and other non-discrimination changes.
In his message, Graham pointed to continued scare tactics, linking transgender and LGB people to sexual predators.
David and Jason Benham, twin sons of anti-gay street preacher Flip Benham, are also speaking out. They plan to be at the March 2 City Council meeting when the ordinances will be considered and join NC Values Coalition for their rally before the meeting.
The inclusion of transgender people has prompted the largest pushback from the religious right. The Rev. Mark Harris, pastor of Charlotte’s First Baptist Church, even told The Charlotte Observer he wasn’t concerned about portions of the ordinance, such as prohibitions against refusing service to lesbian and gay people at restaurants.
“Nobody is for someone not to be served,” Harris told the daily newspaper.
The increased attention from the right comes as the local Charlotte Non-Discrimination Ordinance Coalition continues to mobilize LGBT and straight ally community members in Charlotte. They’ve been asking citizens and residents to sign this petition from Equality NC. And they’ve been working on getting key stakeholders and leaders in the city to endorse the measure.
Jennifer Roberts, a former Mecklenburg County commissioner and 2015 mayoral candidate, endorsed the changes on Thursday.
“In order to attract and retain talent and maintain our momentum as a premier 21st Century global city, we must continue to work to make Charlotte a welcoming city—for all people,” Roberts told supporters in an email message. “That is why I support extending non-discrimination ordinances to protect LGBT people in public contracting, services, and accommodations, including non-discrimination based on gender identity and gender expression.”
On Saturday, the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights group, will meet for their annual North Carolina gala fundraiser. The event is expected to bring 1,300 or more guests to the Charlotte Convention Center. It’s not yet clear how the national group, which has aided local efforts, will address the proposals at the dinner, but advocates expect the event will help mobilize local community members.