LGBT Chamber ‘reviewing’ affiliation with Charlotte Chamber after HB2 dispute

The Charlotte LGBT Chamber of Commerce said Tuesday that it’s reviewing its affiliation with the Charlotte Chamber, after the latter’s encouragement of a vote to rescind the city’s new non-discrimination ordinance.

The Charlotte Chamber had encouraged City Council to take the vote Monday as a symbolic gesture of reconciliation to the state legislature, which passed controversial House Bill 2 in response to the city’s new ordinance. Chamber CEO Bob Morgan had said such a vote – which council decided not to take – would open the door for a compromise with the state on HB2.

“Sadly, the current position of the Charlotte Chamber leaves our Board of Directors no choice but to carefully review our affiliation with the Charlotte Chamber,” said LGBT Chamber president Melissa Morris. “Unfortunately, by calling on our city council to rescind the expansion of protections passed in February, the Charlotte Chamber is no longer aligned with our mission to protect all of our members against statewide discrimination.”

HB2 overrode Charlotte’s local ordinance and created statewide classes of people protected from discrimination that didn’t include LGBT individuals. The bill also mandates that people in government buildings use the bathroom of the sex on their birth certificate.

Morris said the LGBT Chamber is calling for a full repeal of HB2, and while the group values its relationship with the Charlotte Chamber, the groups’ stances aren’t compatible.

The Charlotte Chamber came under fire over the weekend from the Human Rights Campaign, a national group opposed to HB2, which called the Charlotte group an “anti-LGBT bully.” Chamber officials said they strongly disagree with that.

Chamber leaders haven’t called for a full repeal of HB2. Chamber chairman Ned Curran said Tuesday that groups that have done so have been left without “a seat at the table,” and said the Charlotte Chamber opposes discrimination.

“We made quite clear we don’t encourage or support discrimination of any kind,” Curran said.

The LGBT Chamber itself has been drawn into the controversy. The group’s former president, Chad Sevearance-Turner, resigned in March after he was criticized by the N.C. Values Coalition for his criminal record as a sex offender. Sevearance-Turner was arrested in 1998, when he was 20, and charged in Cherokee County, S.C., with a “lewd act, committing or attempting a lewd act upon a child under 16.” A 2000 story in the Spartanburg Herald-Journal said Sevearance-Turner had been a youth minister at a church in Gaffney. A jury there found him guilty of fondling a 15-year-old teenage church member while the boy slept

Ely Portillo: 704-358-5041, @ESPortillo

Related stories from Charlotte Observer