Last night, the city council of Charlotte, North Carolina, failed to pass four ordinance changes adding five characteristics - marital status, familial status, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression - to protected classes already listed in the city’s ordinances governing public accommodations, commercial non-discrimination, passenger vehicle for hire, and the community relations committee.
Hundreds of supporters of equality for all Charlotteans filled the council chambers and several overflow rooms, wearing blue to show their support for these ordinances. Testimony for and against the ordinances lasted more than four hours will advocates for the ordinances held signs which read "Facts Not Fear" and "Don't Discriminate Charlotte".
An amendment was offered by some council members which would have exempted LGBT people - yes, LGB people too - from public accommodations including restrooms. HRC and other coalition members strongly opposed this dangerous amendment which would have excluded the most vulnerable in our community.
HRC thanks Council Members Mayfield and Autry for their vocal and steadfast opposition to the harmful amendment. According to Q-notes Councilwoman Lawana Mayfield, who is Charlotte's first openly LGBT elected official, stated that "I cannot support an amendment that doesn't protect all of our citizens".
In the end, the ordinances failed to pass by a vote of 6 to 5, leaving the LGBT community of Charlotte without any protections from discrimination at the state or local level. According to the Charlotte Observer, "among America’s 20 biggest cities, only three – Charlotte, Memphis, Tenn., and Jacksonville, Fla. – are without the kind of nondiscrimination ordinance that came before the Charlotte City Council on Monday."
HRC's Legislative Counsel on State and Municipal Advocacy Cathryn Oakley was on hand in Charlotte to stand alongside local leaders and advocates at last night’s hearing on the ordinance changes. Members of HRC's Charlotte Steering Committee gave testimony in support of the ordinance and helped fill the room with supporters wearing blue.
HRC pledges to continue to work alongside Equality NC as active members of the Charlotte Non-Discrimination Ordinance Coalition (CNDOC), which also includes the Mecklenburg LGBT Political Action Committee (MeckPAC), Charlotte Business Guild, Clergy for Equality, LGBT Democrats of Mecklenburg County, Genderlines, Straight Allies Charlotte, Democracy NC and ACLU of North Carolina.