CHARLOTTE, N.C. — When City Council meets on March 2 to consider LGBT-inclusive updates to local non-discrimination ordinances, they’ll be met in force with three dozen or more anti-gay Christian activists who have signed up for more than half of the citizen forum speaking slots. Nearly all of them are from out of the city.
As many as 37 anti-LGBT speakers have signed up to address Council on Monday, according to a list of 71 currently signed-up Council speakers obtained by qnotes on Thursday morning. At least 22 of them are from outside of Charlotte, with speakers coming as far away as York, S.C., Statesville and Raleigh. Nearly all of the first 25 speakers are anti-LGBT Christian activists.
The anti-gay rhetoric likely to fill the March 2 Charlotte City Council meeting will parallel the statements made the last time Council debated similar LGBT protections. Read more and see a video documenting that 1992 Council debate.
Additionally, many of the close to 40 anti-gay speakers are directly connected to, work with or for or are supporters of anti-LGBT and anti-choice street preacher Flip Benham or his two twin sons, Jason Benham and David Benham. Flip Benham has been convicted of stalking an abortion doctor.
The highest-profile speakers are leading anti-LGBT activists in the state, including NC Values Coalition director Tami Fitzgerald, who has led the push against the local ordinances. Fitzgerald and the NC Values Coalition were also the primary proponents of the state’s 2012 anti-LGBT constitutional amendment, struck down by federal courts in October. Fitzgerald has connections to several anti-LGBT hate groups. She is a former lobbyist of both the Christian Action League, a state affiliate of the American Family Association, and the North Carolina Family Policy Council, a state affiliate of the Family Research Council.
Fitzgerald is from Raleigh.
Flip Benham and his son David are also slated to speak. The twin Benham brothers made waves when their HGTV real estate show was cancelled as a result of controversy over their extremist anti-LGBT and anti-choice views. The Benhams live in Concord.
Also on the speaker list are several other high-profile anti-LGBT leaders, including: FIRE Church founder and anti-LGBT radio talk show host Dr. Michael Brown, of Concord; Dr. Leon Threatt, 2014 Tea Party 12th Congressional District candidate and pastor of Christian Faith Assembly, of Matthews; and former Cabarrus County Commissioner Jason Oesterrich, of Concord.
Additionally, two speakers — Ante Pavkovic and his wife Katherine — are known for their disruption of a Hindu chaplain’s prayer in the U.S. Senate in 2007.
qnotes identified 17 pro-LGBT speakers slated to address Council. Four of those speakers live in Davidson, Concord and Mooresville.
City rules allow out-of-town residents to speak at Council meetings. Rules also usually allow speakers to address Council for three minutes each. The city had been notifying speakers today that their time limit will be reduced to two minutes.
Anti-gay groups, including the NC Values Coalition, have planned a rally at 4 p.m. the day of the Council meeting at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center.
Pro-LGBT supporters are also being encouraged to show up at the government center, 600 E. Fourth St., beginning at 4 p.m. on Monday.