We’re fast approaching April. Spring is fresh upon us, and with the weather increasingly warming up, so will the local political scene. In the fall — September to be exact — voters in Charlotte will head out for their first opportunity to choose possible new leaders for City Council, among other offices.
In the months and weeks before the September primary — where LGBT voters will certainly have the most impact — candidates will be hitting neighborhoods, parties, conferences, local events and other traditional stops along the campaign trail. When they do, be prepared to successfully and adequately discern their positions and stances.
Doing so couldn’t be more important. The stakes for who sits on Charlotte City Council have been raised, especially after the city rejected LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination ordinances, including a contentious debate on public accommodations protections. It will be up to LGBT voters to cast their ballots for candidates who can truly carry the torch of equality forward.
Here are a few questions to ponder (or even directly ask the candidates themselves) when you’re interacting with those seeking your vote and your confidence.
1. What is the candidate’s background and do they have any past history or record of supporting the LGBT community or other minority communities?
Who is the candidate? What do they represent? Ask them about their past history or record of LGBT community support. What groups have they volunteered with or financially supported? What causes have they assisted with? When did they begin their personal, outspoken advocacy on LGBT issues — is there a long track record of it or did it just so happen to begin as campaign season did? Keeping in mind the key differences between parties — official platforms of the Democratic and Republican parties are clear as day on which one is LGBT friendly — what political party do they belong to now? Have they always belonged to this party? Or did they recently switch affiliation, and, if they did, why? Are they carrying some lingering anti-LGBT beliefs with them?
2. How does the candidate view LGBT equality?
Does the candidate view LGBT equality as a one-and-done deal? Do they think marriage equality is our sole fight? Or do they have a broader, contextualized understanding of other issues, like discrimination in employment, housing, health care, public accommodations and inclusion in civil, social and religious spheres? All of these issues and more combined are a more complete, nuanced view of the issues important to LGBT voters.
3. Are they a good ally or a bad listener?
If the candidate isn’t LGBT, we need them to understand what it takes to be a staunch ally for LGBT people’s equality. See if they know how to listen. Do they care to hear about concerns? Are they willing to listen to feedback? Are they open and transparent when receiving constructive criticism on how they can best be a good ally for LGBT people?
4. Who do they support?
This question is two fold. First, ask if they support full LGB and T equality. As a community, we need to move forward together. We’re kind of like the Three Musketeers and d’Artagnon’s “all for one and one for all.” Second, what kinds of other leaders or institutions does the candidate endorse or support? Have they thrown their weight behind leaders or institutions that hold anti-LGBT stances or positions? Why? Are they telling the LGBT community one thing and those opposed to our equality another?
5. Have they evolved or are they still evolving?
For all people — even LGBT people — acceptance (or self-acceptance) can be a long journey. Perhaps the candidate doesn’t believe in full marriage equality; get to the root of their discomfort and ask them why. Perhaps they are still “evolving” on the issue, or perhaps the simple question will reveal a more nuanced view of their thinking. For example, some conservative pastors in North Carolina personally believe marriage is between a man and woman only, yet many of these same pastors have continued to come out forcefully and publicly against government efforts to discrimination against same-gender couples in any way. To me, that shows a healthy separation between personal belief and public policy.
6. Are they open and transparent?
I believe this is one of the most important questions for any candidate — whether we’re talking about LGBT issues or simple government oversight and operation. And it’s especially important given Charlotte’s recent history with a certain former mayor. Is the candidate open to his constituents? Is she honest? Is she communicative? Are they transparent in their community and campaign conversations and in other areas of life and business? After all, if elected, they will sit on City Council to serve you — not themselves, not private interests. It’s best to get a sense of where their loyalties lie — themselves or the public — before entrusting them with a precious, sacred vote on behalf of thousands of citizens and residents. : :