Equality advocates to Charlotte City Council: Now is no time to back down

Equality advocates to Charlotte City Council: Now is no time to back down

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Charlotte votes 7-4 to expand non-discrimination ordinance
Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts

[Editor’s note: News reports indicate that the Charlotte City Council may consider “repealing” all or part of the groundbreaking anti-discrimination ordinance it enacted earlier this year and that was subsequently invalidated by HB2. The move could come as early as this evening’s City Council meeting, which convenes at 5:00 p.m. According to the Charlotte Observer, the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce has been lobbying hard for the move. The group claims that such an action would represent “an overture” to state lawmakers who might then modify the HB2 law. Equality advocates are having none of this scheme, however. The following statement and letter in opposition to the idea were released late last Friday on the website of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC).]

Today (May 20,2016), HRC, Equality North Carolina and the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) sent a letter to Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts and the seven City Council members who voted to advance city-wide LGBT non-discrimination protections on February 22, 2016. The letter comes amid reports of a possible deal on HB2 that could potentially involve repealing the city’s non-discrimination ordinance. The Councilmembers who voted in favor of these crucial protections were: Julie Eiselt, James Mitchell, Al Austin, Patsy Kinsey, John Autry,  LaWana Mayfield and Vi Lyles.

HB2 has overturned municipal protections for LGBT people at the local level, barred transgender people from using restrooms consistent with their gender identity in all publicly-owned property, and gutted the ability of people who have been discriminated against — including on the basis of race, religion, and sex — to sue in state court.

In the letter, HRC President Chad Griffin, NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling, and Equality North Carolina Executive Director Chris Sgro urge the mayor and city councilmembers not to compromise on this issue and remind them that nothing short of full repeal of HB2 is acceptable. They are leaders on the right side of history.

The letter follows:

Dear Councilmembers,

We respectfully write to you on behalf of Equality North Carolina, the National Center for Transgender Equality and the Human Rights Campaign’s millions of members and supporters, who continue to admire your courage and resilience in the fight to repeal HB2.

Three months ago, you boldly passed protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) citizens — critical nondiscrimination protections that already exist in 18 states and more than 100 other cities across the country. In fact, Charlotte was one of only a handful of major cities without these protections. Despite facing threats from Governor Pat McCrory and lawmakers in Raleigh, you voted to make the Queen City a more just, more equal place. With your votes, you forced our fellow Americans to address the rampant inequality that LGBT Americans — particularly transgender Americans continue to face every day.

You know all too well the backlash that has ensued. Our opponents mobilized as we knew they would and rammed through the hateful HB2 in less than a day, with none of the discussion or deliberation in which you thoughtfully engaged. With more than 200 business leaders, major entertainers, and the NCAA and NBA unifying against HB2, including cancelling plans to move to or perform in the city, times have been undoubtedly difficult in Charlotte and across North Carolina. But make no mistake, your votes on February 22 did not cause this. The reckless actions of state leaders, elected to protect all citizens, did. They are the ones who jeopardized and continue to jeopardize the state’s economic opportunities.

The road ahead may be long, and the challenges today may feel insurmountable, but we write today to urge you to stay the course. Backing down in the face of hate isn’t right and it won’t work. Too many people — in North Carolina and across this country — have already suffered at the hands of Governor McCrory, Senator Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore. Not at your hands. But cutting a deal with the likes of lawmakers — or a Chamber that didn’t support Charlotte’s non-discrimination ordinance in the first place — would be foolish and dangerous. They have no desire to take even a single step to ensure LGBT people retain the protections every single American so rightfully deserves.

You must not waiver in your commitment, pin your hopes on a costly and long court battle, or undermine the very values you all fought to protect. You are lawmakers. In passing the ordinance, you were doing your job. We urge you to resist retreating, to resist putting what’s easy over what’s right. A deal that calls for a repeal of the ordinance  would only tarnish the legacy of your city which you have worked so hard to strengthen.

This moment in which we find ourselves is quickly defining the type of nation we are destined to be. Today, you are standing on the right side of history. As Councilmember Al Austin said the night you passed the ordinance, “Are we a city that panders to fear and hate to those who wish to perpetuate fear and injustice? I say to you, ‘Not on my watch.’” That was true then, and remains true now. We cannot ‘compromise’ on equality and the world is watching.

Respectfully,

Chris Sgro, Executive Director, Equality North Carolina
Mara Keisling, Executive Director, National Center for Transgender Equality
Chad Griffin, President, Human Rights Campaign