CHARLOTTE — Mecklenburg County Commissioner Bill James’ colleagues are slated Tuesday night to consider a resolution supporting equality and tolerance a week after he made remarks that compared LGBT people to “sexual predators.”
The Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners will consider the resolution, proposed by Democrat Harold Cogdell, at Tuesday’s meeting, though any action will fall short of an official reprimand or censure of James. More than 7,500 people have signed a petition set up by the national Change.org social justice site calling for the Mecklenburg board to censure James.
“I felt that the image of our community was being impacted in a way that did not reflect the core values of what Charlotte-Mecklenburg is really about,” Cogdell told The Charlotte Observer.
Cogdell’s resolution reads, in part: “…the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners affirms, proclaims and declares its public support for community values that embrace and promote equality, diversity, tolerance and inclusion; and stands united in firm opposition to inflammatory speech that may cause bullying, intimidation, harassment, persecution or discriminatory treatment of any individual because of their race, color, sex, religion or creed, national origin, ancestry, age, sexual orientation or disability.”
The controversy and resolution are a response to James’ comments last week, in which he said “homosexuals are sexual predators” in an email to his colleagues. He was responding to Commission Chair Jennifer Roberts’ request to send a letter to Charlotte’s Congressional delegation thanking them for their support for a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal. In later comments last week, James compared LGBT people to prostitutes and pedophiles.
The Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners meet on Tuesday, Jan. 4 at 6 p.m. at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center. The meeting will also be televised on Time Warner on channel 16.
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Local LGBT community members feel as though Democratic commissioners are bowing to homophobia.
“I think the homophobia isn’t being taken seriously enough,” says Angel Chandler, leader of the new North Carolina chapter of GetEQUAL, a national LGBT grassroots activism group. “For the most part, if we had people espousing blatantly racist views there would be an outcry and probably, more than likely, there would be some sort of reprimand taken against that person. [The resolution] is nowhere near what needs to be done.”
Chandler’s group, whose members are primarily based in Asheville, N.C., will travel to Charlotte for Tuesday’s meeting. She says it’s important for Charlotte, Mecklenburg and other North Carolina residents to speak out regardless of where they live.
“Bill James’ voice carries beyond Mecklenburg County and the Charlotte area,” she says. “We’ve all been reading about it in the papers. The effects of what he says, his anti-gay propaganda, certainly goes beyond Mecklenburg County.”
Chandler plans to speak at the commissioner’s meeting, while members of her group stage a protest outside of the building.
Joshua Carpenter Costner, a Charlotte resident who leads the grassroots group Queer Rising QC, says he and several members of his group plan on speaking.
“We are showing our support for the resolution that Cogdell has proposed,” Costner says, adding he hopes the commissioners will at some point decide to censure James.
Costner also expects a great deal of community upset if commissioners fail to approve the resolution tonight. Vice Chair Jim Pendergraph, a Republican, has reportedly decided to abstain on the resolution, according to WBT 1110 AM. Republican Commissioner Karen Bentley also told the news-talk station that she was disappointed in James’ remarks, but stopped short of committing to voting for the resolution.