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LGBT Defeat: Council Rejects Non-Discrimination Expansion

Monday night Charlotte’s City Council voted down a proposal to expand the city’s nondiscrimination laws to protect LGBT people. The vote was 6 to 5. It’s a major blow to LGBT rights advocates and a victory for those who saw the move as part of a war against religious freedom.

The meeting was contentious and lasted until almost midnight. But before the meeting, opponents of the ordinance held a rally in the courtyard of Government Center.

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Protesters gather at a rally outside Government Center

OUTSIDE GOVERNMENT CENTER

About 200 people attended the rally, which at times resembled a church service, with one minister opening the rally with a prayer that God would save the LGBT community from sin.

Carrying signs that read “Vote No” and chanting “Don’t do it Charlotte,” the crowd heard several preachers, such as Reverend Gabriel Rogers of Kingdom Christian Church, speak out against the ordinance. “I do not advocate beating a homosexual up, tonight I stand advocating on the truth of God’s word, which simply reminds us that a man is a man and a woman is a woman,” Rogers said.

That statement did not go over well with Diane Dawson Garrett, a supporter of the ordinance or LGBT member Carl Hanner. “I’m a Christian and to hear that minister use Christianity is amazing to me,” Dawson-Garrett said. “This is not what the God of my understanding would do.” “The Christian right has gone crazy,” added Hanner. “It’s time they were told American Christians to stop hating. It’s gone too far.”

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Handing out protest signs.

But Jeannette Wilson, a mother of seven, was unapologetic in her criticism of LGBT people and the ordinance. She said the provision that would have allowed transgender people to use the bathroom of their choice put children at risk of being molested. “There’s an element of safety implied with a little picture of the man on one door and the picture of a woman on one door,” Wilson said. “This is going to be a real problem for families in Charlotte. I don’t want to expose me and my children to these perverse things.”

To which a protester interrupted Wilson’s speech and said, “Pedophiles are heterosexuals.”

Standing at the back of the rally, an LGBT group, holding gay pride rainbow flags, at times disrupted the speeches with shouts and chants. “I’m tired of living in shame because you people don’t understand,” an LGBT member screamed. Just behind her an LGBT member, holding a gay pride banner, told a supporter of the ordinance to shut up. The two argued before an LGBT member, wearing a sticker on her shirt that said “Keep Calm and Be Fierce,” parted the two men.

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'Don't Do It Charlotte' supporters

To quiet the occasional outbursts, Dr. Leon Threatt of CFA Ministries encouraged the crowd to love those who are different. But Threatt, an African American, also let it be known that he resents LGBT advocates equating their struggles with the civil rights movement. “I don’t know of any LGBT being asked to travel in the back of the bus. I don’t know anyone from LGBT being denied the opportunity to work, so don’t try to jump on the wagon with an illegitimate cause. This is a moral matter, not a civil rights matter,” Threatt said. “Those who labored and suffered and bled would be ashamed by this fraudulent attempt to address this matter as a civil rights matter. This is a moral matter, not a civil rights matter.”

The rally ended with both sides being far apart, but meeting at the stage to shout each other down, with chants, prayers and Christian hymns.

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Supporters and opponents of the measure hold up signs Inside the council chamber.

INSIDE THE CHAMBER

After the usual prayer and pledge of allegiance, the city council debate started with some clarification. City Attorney Bob Hageman laid out what the ordinance would do. "The proposal before the council tonight would add marital status, familial status, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression as protected characteristics to the passenger vehicle for hire ordinance as well as the commercial non-discrimination ordinance."

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Philip Benham was the first member of the public to address the council.

Thus making it illegal for taxi drivers, restaurants or any business to decline service to LGBT customers. But Hageman went further, stating indecent exposure or predatory actions on women or children are and would still be against the law. And he brought up case law which, he said, shows the proposed changes were not tantamount to religious discrimination. "As a matter of constitutional law, courts have not recognized the right of an individual based on their religious beliefs, no matter how closely held, to demand an exception of a law of general applicability."

Philip Benham was the first member of the public to speak to the council. "Mr. Hageman that is the most convoluted bunch of poppycock I have ever heard in my entire life." The minister quoted Leviticus in his opposition to the proposed law. "Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God. Do not be deceived."

102 other speakers would follow.

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Sam Spencer was the first supporter of the measure to address the city council.

Some spoke of gender and anatomy. Sam Spencer supported the measure.

"The sex you’re assigned at birth may be between your legs. But gender is between your ears"

Jeremiah Gode was against it.

"When God created us he made us male and female. He does not make mistakes."

Others spoke of fear and their children’s safety.  Angela Keene spoke against the measure.

"I’ve got a 7 and a 9 year old little girl and I just wouldn’t feel safe sending them to the bathroom."

Barbara Green spoke of sitting at the hospital bedside of her transgendered teen after a suicide attempt.

"At the time, she felt that she didn’t fit in and there was something wrong with her. The bullying and ostracism was too much to handle."

Members of both sides quoted scripture, talked of discrimination, and said they, not their opponents, represented the majority. And both sides asked the council 'to do the right thing.'

In the end, it all came down to bathrooms. The measure would have allowed transgendered people to use the bathrooms or locker rooms of their choice. That changed almost as soon as the council started their debate. Councilwoman Vi Lyles offered an amendment that removed the bathroom language from the bill.

Her amendment passed.

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Pro non-discrimination expansion signs

After that, there wasn’t much real debate. The council members still spoke but more to explain why they would vote either for or against the bill. When Mayor Dan Clodfelter called for a vote, Council members Patsy Kinsey, Al Austin, David Howard, Clair Fallow and Vi Lyles raised their hands.

Those opposed were Michael Barnes, John Autry, Kenny Smith, Ed Driggs, Greg Phipps and LaWana Mayfield, the only openly gay member of the council. Mayfield said the amendment striking down the bathroom provisions sealed her vote. "I will not and I cannot support an amendment which doesn’t support all of our citizens."

The proceedings took almost six hours. After the vote there were no sighs or cheers from either side, they just filed out of the chamber.

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