Charlotte council passes LGBT ordinance

by Emily Blake/North Carolina Biblical Recorder, posted Wednesday, February 24, 2016 (2 years ago)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (BP) -- After voting down a highly controversial sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) ordinance in March 2015, the Charlotte City Council passed a similar measure Feb. 22 requiring places of "public accommodation" to abide by a non-discrimination policy that includes "marital status, familial status, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression."

Opponents say the ordinance allows sexual predators to visit the bathrooms or locker rooms of their choice, endangering women and children.

The ordinance, which passed on a 7-4 vote, now faces challenges at the state legislature.

According to the North Carolina Values Coalition, more than 700 protesters crowded outside the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Complex Building for two hours leading up to the vote despite pouring rain.

"We, in Charlotte, are united together as citizens, faith leaders, business owners, mothers and fathers, to let you know that your voice will not be the last one standing," Mark Harris, senior pastor of First Baptist Church Charlotte, said at the coalition's #DontDoItCharlotte rally.

"You have received nearly 250,000 emails urging you to vote 'no' to allowing men to enter women's bathrooms and locker rooms. Should you choose to ignore this resounding voice of the people by passing this extreme ordinance, it is not us that will lose today ... it will be the women and children of this city that you have willingly and knowingly placed in harm's way. We will not stop until they are protected and safe once more," Harris said at the rally that featured community, business and faith leaders urging Mayor Jennifer Roberts and the Charlotte City Council to turn back the ordinance.

Charlotte council members Ed Driggs, Claire Fallon, Greg Phipps and Kenny Smith opposed the measure.

Coalition spokeswoman Kami Mueller expressed thanks to the council members who opposed the measure, saying they "took the outcry of over 250,000 emails from concerned citizens seriously," and they "should be applauded."

She continued, "The seven others who voted yes to this ordinance did so because they valued their own extreme agenda over protecting women and children in Charlotte. This is both shameful and extremely sad. Charlotte deserves better."

Gov. Pat McCrory indicated in an email to The Charlotte Observer that swift action by state legislators is expected to overturn the local ordinance. The outcome of the controversial issue also may be decided by N.C. voters in a referendum.

Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the North Carolina Values Coalition, said in a press release, "Every citizen of North Carolina should thank Gov. McCrory for taking a strong stand against the Charlotte City Council's pending unconstitutional transgender bathroom and LGBT favorability ordinance. The ordinance will set up legal discrimination, allow men to enter women's bathrooms and locker rooms as they wish, and violate the freedom of Charlotteans to live and work in accordance with their beliefs."

Aaron and Melissa Klein, owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa in Gresham, Ore., are an example of how such ordinances can impact Christian business owners, suppliers, employees and the general public. Allan Blume, editor of the Biblical Recorder, interviewed the couple at a recent event.

"It's going to put Christians out of the marketplace," Aaron Klein said. It's a consequence of gender- and sexuality-related ordinances that they experienced firsthand. The couple declined to bake a cake for a lesbian wedding last year, sparking a legal campaign against them. On July 2, 2015, Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian ordered the Kleins to pay $135,000 in emotional damages to the lesbian couple they declined to serve.

"As Christians, we need to be motivated to get more involved in the political process," Klein said, "not so much for people like me who have already been forced to pay $135,000 -- but for those who will not be able to stand up under the pressure. ... We need to stand up for those who won't be able to survive the harassment campaigns of the LGBT movement in the future."

The Charlotte City Council held a five-hour meeting in March 2015 that media reports described as one of the most contentious in years. Hundreds of concerned citizens gathered at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Building to express their support or opposition to the proposed SOGI ordinance.

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 first push for the ordinance failed by a 6-5 vote.

Roberts, Charlotte's newly elected mayor, promised to make the ordinance a top priority for 2016.

In January, activists also successfully lobbied the Greensboro City Council to pass a SOGI ordinance.

Emily Blake is a staff writer for the Biblical Recorder (www.BRnow.org), newsjournal of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Seth Brown, content editor for the Biblical Recorder, contributed to this report.
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