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LGBT equality ‘not negotiable,’ says Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts

HB2: A timeline for North Carolina’s controversial law

North Carolina repealed HB2 in 2017 but left intact some of its provisions. But with Charlotte’s reputation tainted, the city is still paying to market itself to visitors.
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North Carolina repealed HB2 in 2017 but left intact some of its provisions. But with Charlotte’s reputation tainted, the city is still paying to market itself to visitors.

Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts assured the community’s most influential LGBT supporters Wednesday that the City Council has no intention of backing off the Charlotte equal rights ordinance that prompted the N.C. General Assembly to pass the HB2 law in March.

The possibility of a compromise was suggested late last week, when it was reported the legislature’s top leaders met privately with Roberts to talk about defusing a growing national backlash to House Bill 2. Legislative leaders have suggested that if Charlotte repealed its nondiscrimination ordinance, the General Assembly might amend HB2.

The law enacted in March requires people in government buildings to use bathrooms that correspond to the sex on their birth certificates. Ultimately, Roberts and her negotiating partners did not agree to anything except to keep talking, according to sources on both sides.

“When people talk about compromising on equality, I think how? Do you make them half equal? It doesn’t work with math, and it doesn’t work with people. Equality is equality,” Roberts said, addressing the ninth annual meeting of the Charlotte Lesbian and Gay Fund at the Westin Charlotte.

“We stood up and proved we support equality and inclusion. Regardless of how or what has come out of it, regardless of how the politics play out, Charlotte will continue to promote and support and display for the world to see our values of equality and inclusion. … That is not negotiable.”

Roberts said city leaders became even more confident of their stance after the U.S. Justice Department announced last week that HB2 violates the U.S. Civil Rights Act and Title IX – a finding that could jeopardize billions in federal education funding.

The Justice Department gave Gov. Pat McCrory until this past Monday to denounce the law, but state legislative leaders filed separate suits asking that a judge determine the law is not discriminatory. That prompted the Justice Department to file its own lawsuit, seeking an injunction to suspend the law while a judge determines whether it is illegal.

“The Department of Justice ruling confirmed that Charlotte is in step with the direction of our country,” said Roberts. “With our nondiscrimination ordinance, Charlotte joined over 200 cities in America, including three in South Carolina.”

17Number of grants given this year by the Charlotte Lesbian and Gay Fund

13Number of organizations receiving grants

$133,000Total of annual grants given, the most the Charlotte Lesbian and Gay Fund has awarded

Seven hundred attended the Wednesday luncheon, which was sponsored by Wells Fargo, a company that has taken a stand against HB2. More than 100 top executives from major companies, including major Charlotte employers such as Bank of America, have signed a letter opposing the “anti-LGBT” legislation.

Representatives of several of those companies attended the fund luncheon. Also among the acknowledged guests were City Council members Patsy Kinsey, Julie Eiselt, Vi Lyles and LaWana Mayfield.

The Lesbian and Gay Fund gave out 17 grants this year to 13 organizations, for a total of $133,000. That is the most the fund has ever awarded, they said.

After a City Council budget meeting later in the day Wednesday, Roberts was asked whether she would use her veto if council members took a symbolic vote to repeal the nondiscrimination ordinance, which extended protections to gay, lesbian and transgender individuals. If council members took such an action, Roberts declined to say she would use her mayoral veto.

“A lot of options are being discussed,” she said.

Roberts said the city has discussed having the legislature increase penalties for people committing crimes such as assault or indecent exposure in bathrooms.

North Carolina repealed HB2 in 2017 but left intact some of its provisions. But with Charlotte’s reputation tainted, the city is still paying to market itself to visitors.

Staff writer Steve Harrison contributed.

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