Council Faces Divisive Anti-Discrimination Ordinance Vote

Charlotte — City Council is one step closer to deciding whether it should add protections for the LGBT community to the current non-discrimination ordinance.

Council members met to discuss the ordinance Monday.

They are scheduled to vote Feb. 22.

Hostile, divisive, is how city council members still describe the debate on whether to add sexual orientation, gender expression and gender identity to the anti-discrimination ordinance after more than a year of discussions.

“I think everybody is being heard,” said Community Relations Committee’s Willie Ratchford. “Perhaps they’re not hearing what they want to hear.”

This round, Ratchford and City Attorney Bob Hagemann brought data to city council.

If they add the protections, businesses can’t deny services to someone based on sexual orientation.

“Companies like mine and various others will be targeted as a result of this,” said Concord Business owner, David Benham.

Religious leaders and critics gathered outside the meeting. They want to decide who to serve and fear the change would give sexual predators access to public bathrooms, claiming to be transgender.

They brought 2,000 signed petitions. They do not know if the signers live in the state since the petition was available to anyone.

“This is same arguments that were used for women and African Americans,” said council member Al Austin.

“To suggest that you’re some how a bigot because you think a man should use a men’s room and a woman should use a woman’s room, I just think that’s a false equivalence,” said Kenny Smith.

Ratchford told council cities he contacted with similar ordinances report zero instances of sexual assaults. He says Charlotte receives up to five complaints a year from people claiming a store discriminated against them due to sexual orientation.

Equality NC and the LGBT Chamber of Commerce say voting no could stop corporations from coming here.

“How can we continue to say Charlotte is a world class city if we aren’t inviting these protections for businesses to want to come here,” said Director of

Advocacy for Equality NC Crystal Richardson.

That’s what city council is asking now.

Before the Feb. 22 meeting, they want to know what cities have not passed this type of change and why.