By M.H. Cavanaugh
Christian Action League
March 3, 2015
CHARLOTTE – Media reports say the Charlotte City Council meeting held Monday night of this week was one of the most contentious in many years. Hundreds of concerned citizens gathered at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Building to express their support or opposition to a proposed city ordinance that would have included enumerations of “sexual orientation,” “gender identity,” and “gender expression” as legally protected categories.
With more than 100 people speaking at the meeting, each for two minutes and more than 40,000 emails sent to the City Council concerning the proposal, the ordinance failed by a 6 – 5 vote.
During the five hour long meeting, approximately 60% of the speakers expressed their opposition to the proposal. Clergy, business owners, people from academia, soccer moms, concerned fathers, people from all walks of life, spoke with passion, often citing Scripture, arguing the proposal would diminish religious freedoms and make women and children vulnerable to sexual predators.
Supporters of the proposal said opponents were simply fear-mongering and that Charlotte was one of a few larger cities in the country without protections for gay, lesbian, and transgender people. They argued gay and transgender people are subject to violence and suffer various forms of deprivation and humiliation because of discrimination against them.
Before a final vote was taken on the measure, councilmembers passed an amendment that removed the bathroom section of the bill that allowed transgender people to use the restroom of the gender they best identified. But even after removing that most controversial provision, council members remained divided over the ordinance as a whole, saying the amendment significantly weakened it.
Two councilmembers, Lawana Mayfield and John Autry, who were ardent supporters of the proposed ordinance, said they could not vote for the proposal in its amended form because it didn’t provide protections for everyone in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community. Thus, a final vote on the bill would bring opponents and supporters of the original proposal together to defeat it.
In a letter composed by attorney Tami Fitzgerald, head of the North Carolina Values Coalition and sent to councilmembers before the meeting – a letter Dr. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, as well as many other religious leaders had signed onto – Fitzgerald clarified the ordinance was unconstitutional and placed an undue regulatory burden on private businesses, exposing them to lawsuits and infringing on their First Amendment rights. The letter explained it also put women and children in danger, violating their sense of privacy and security. It said the ordinance required the city to engage in discrimination on the basis of religion by choosing to disfavor companies that wouldn’t employ or provide certain services that breached their religious beliefs. Moreover, the letter argued the ordinance ran afoul of a provision in the North Carolina constitution prohibiting the regulation of trade in a way not applicable state-wide.
Dr. Michael Brown, host of the daily, nationally, syndicated radio show, the Line of Fire, respectfully criticized the city attorney and made a powerful case against the ordinance in his short speech before the City Council.
Brown, a resident of Huntersville, said he was shocked by the city attorney’s presentation of the ordinance as “extraordinarily biased and misleading, based on every major legal analysis,” he had read, ”especially the reference to biological and anatomical sex, which now becomes meaningless because the issue is ’gender identity’ and ‘gender expression’”.
Brown said he had talked with some of the proponents of the measure who were demonstrating outside the government building and asked them, “What if I am convinced to the core of my being that I am black? Then I was told that I am black,” said Brown. “I guess if there were minority housing rights, then I would be allowed them,” he argued facetiously.”
“I asked,” said Brown, “what if I believe I am a horse, then can I use the stable?” Brown said the answer he got was, “Sure, as long as you’re not hurting anyone.” Brown then said the whole concept of the ordinance and the push for it was “collaborating with social madness.”
The ordinance was first introduced to the City Council on November 24th by Scott Bishop of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the largest gay rights advocacy organization in the country. Bishop’s presentation to councilmembers urged them to insert the new language into the city’s nondiscrimination policies.
The City Council responded by asking the City Manager, Ron Carlee and its attorney, Robert Hagermann, to draft information on the proposal.
On February 9th, Hagermann gave an overview of various non-discrimination laws and provided councilmembers with a proposed ordinance. The City Council then voted 7-4 to put the ordinance on the agenda.
But numerous speakers during the meeting on Monday night, as well as some councilmembers, expressed concerns there hadn’t been any request by city leaders to hear from those who could provide legal or moral counterpoints to what HRC and the LGBT community had presented to the City Council.
“I am very thankful to God this proposal for the City of Charlotte was defeated,” said Dr. Creech. “We’ve seen the damage these so-called non-discrimination policies have had, creating special rights for the LGBT community and diminishing rights for people of faith who believe homosexuality and transgenderism is immoral.”
“We’ve seen florists, photographers, and others lose their businesses because they were saddled with huge fines by these policies. We also know of instances where sexual perverts have used these laws for cover to prey on women and children. That’s why cities who consider these ordinances are running into fierce opposition. We’re seeing it not only in Charlotte, but in other places like Houston, Texas, Fayetteville, Arkansas, and Cleveland, Ohio,” he added.
“I think other cities in North Carolina would be wise not to take up these measures without expecting a heated and concerted response by the religious community. Many Christians possess a certain righteous indignation because they’re constantly witnessing their religious rights eroding in the public sector. They’re not going to simply lie down to it anymore,” he warned.
If the Charlotte City ordinance had passed, it would have been the first city in North Carolina to enact such a policy. LGBT activists have vowed not to give up and plan to bring the matter back before the Charlotte City Council. Opponents have promised to remain vigilant and zealous against it.