[Ed. Note — The following is a personal commentary from qnotes editor Matt Comer, cross-posted from his personal blog, InterstateQ.com.]

This week’s furor over a lesbian pastor’s appointment to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) volunteer chaplaincy force hopefully paints for us a clear picture of where Charlotte might be heading in its continued journey toward full inclusion and equality for LGBT citizens and residents.

In the past, I’ve been quite the critic of Charlotte’s and Mecklenburg County’s political and city leaders. (To be fair, I’ve also been very critical of our own community’s lack of leadership.)

I’ve found many of our political and LGBT leaders more than willing to “promise” or “commit” to LGBT inclusion, equality and advocacy, and far too many of the same unwilling to take clear, principled and courageous stands on those commitments. Empty words and broken promises do not equate to “political courage,” my friends.

In October, however, CMPD Chief Rodney Monroe made clear, in a very public way, his commitment to furthering inclusion and equality within his police force. At an open forum at the Lesbian & Gay Community Center of Charlotte, Monroe sought collaboration, communication and dialogue. Monroe’s mere appearance at the event was a step forward, the first time any CMPD police chief had publicly addressed the LGBT community.

This week, Monroe made good on his commitment: He stood strong and spoke up for respect in the face of resignations from six, veteran CMPD chaplains offended by the appointment of a lesbian pastor to the volunteer chaplain force.

Monroe wrote to the chaplains (PDF):

As valued members of this Department, I’m sure you can understand my disappointment when I received letters of resignation from some members of the Chaplaincy program — some who have served CMPD for many years and were instrumental in its inception. While I understand that personal beliefs do not always align with business practices, I have always believed that we can respect our differences and beliefs in order to work together in our common goal of bettering this organization and the community we serve. This is especially important in acknowledging our greater role as a local government agency that adheres to the constitutional principle of “the separation of church and state.”

As we look around our Department, and even within our Chaplaincy program, we see people of many different backgrounds, beliefs and opinions. I respect the decisions and convictions of those who have decided to resign, as I would never ask anyone to compromise their beliefs. But I do hope that those of us who remain, continue our dedication to this Department and continue to embrace our goal of being an inclusive organization that respects the differences of all of our employees.

Monroe has proven he can be a principled, courageous leader in the face of hate, bigotry and anti-LGBT prejudice. Our city and county leaders should follow his example. LGBT community leaders should, too.

Charlotte is changing, albeit very slowly, due in part to Monroe’s ability to do his job: To serve and to protect all the citizens and residents of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, regardless of race, religion, color, creed, sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender-identity and any host or litany of real or perceived differences you can imagine.

For that, Monroe deserves thanks and praise from our community. In addition, he deserves our loyalty and our defense when local anti-LGBT and racist activists come knocking on his door demanding his resignation or termination (such has happened before, and will surely happen again).

Monroe is a true ally to this community and all citizens of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. He is, perhaps, among the truest we have among the very small group of local leaders regularly standing up for values of respect, tolerance, inclusion and equality.

I tip my hat to Chief Monroe and thank him for a job well done.

Matt Comer

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