Advocates expect tight vote, but confident Charlotte LGBT protections will pass

GOP Council member expects 6-5 vote, but unsure if proposals will pass or fail

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — With City Council prepared to hear from close to 100 people at their meeting tonight, LGBT community advocates with the Charlotte Non-Discrimination Ordinance Coalition said Monday morning they are expecting a tight vote on LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination ordinances. They remain confident, however, that the ordinances will pass.

“Tonight, we hope and believe that Charlotte City Council will provide an important update to city code,” Chris Sgro, executive director of the statewide Equality NC, told media. “With these updates, gay and transgender residents will not fear discrimination when patronizing a public business, attempting to do business with the city or in access to essential city services. This will the safety of gay and transgender Charlotteans.”

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Republican Charlotte City Councilmember Kenny Smith appeared on local radio this morning and said he thinks votes on the non-discrimination measures — an update to public accommodations among the most controversial — will result in a 6-5 vote. He told WBT Charlotte Morning News host Bo Thompson that he’s not sure if the vote will be in favor or against the proposals.

At this morning’s press conference, coalition leaders said the updates are necessary to build a better Charlotte.

“I stand as an advocate and a citizen to tell you how important these ordinances are to me, to our community and to the city,” said Equality NC’s Crystal Richardson. “Gay and transgender people should not be discriminated against. Gay and transgender Charlotteans are hardworking and innovate, in line with the principles that built this city.”

Much of the opposition to the ordinance — led by the NC Values Coalition’s Tami Fitzgerald and First Baptist Church pastor Mark Harris — has focused on restrooms. Supporters of the ordinance say opponents are relying on scare tactics and prejudices, unfairly linking transgender people to sex offenders and predators.

“What the other side is saying is simply not true,” Sgro said, adding, “It is important for us to remember that, despite some bombastic language from the opposition to these measures, this is not a contentious issue. The voices that are the loudest in the room are not always representative of the majority.”

Sgro cited a September 2014 Public Policy Polling poll which found that 73 percent of North Carolinians favor non-discirmination protections for LGBT people. Additionally, he said Charlotte is just one of three of the nation’s top 20 cities without fully inclusive LGBT protections.

“This is not a 50-50 issue,” Sgro said. “The people of Charlotte and North Carolina stand with us.”

Like those opposed, LGBT leaders are also including voices of faith leaders. The Rev. Jay Leach, pastor of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Charlotte, told local media that passing the ordinances will insure Charlotte is “a safe space for all in our city.”

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Leach also chastised anti-LGBT leaders for their reliance on fear and scare tactics.

“As faith leaders, we are required to lead with faith, not with fear, not with absurdities, not with hysteria,” Leach said.

Speakers list continues to grow

The list of speakers for Council’s citizen forum has continued to grow. Last week, qnotes obtained a list of 71 speakers. As of Monday morning, that had grown close to 100.

Forty-six of the speakers plan on opposing the LGBT-inclusive ordinances, including high-profile leaders like Fitzgerald and others. Many of the speakers opposed to the ordinance do not live in Charlotte.

Twenty-five speakers plan on supporting the proposed ordinances.

The NC Values Coalition plans a rally featuring anti-gay twin brothers Jason and David Benham, sons of anti-LGBT and anti-choice street preacher Flip Benham. From Concord, Benham is first on the Council speaking list. The rally is expected to draw hundreds.

Supporters of the ordinances are encouraging their supporters to show up early at the government center at 4 p.m. They also want supporters to wear blue. Click here for more information.

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Posted by Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.