Politics & Government

Phone message campaign against LGBT proposal raises bathroom issue

A conservative policy group opposed to a Charlotte City Council proposal to extend nondiscrimination protections to gay, lesbian and transgender residents is charging in phone messages to thousands of Charlotteans that the “dangerous policy change” would allow men to go into women’s bathrooms and vice versa.

The “robocalls” this week from Raleigh-based North Carolina Family Action represent the ramping up of a campaign against the proposal that will culminate just before the council’s Monday meeting with a rally outside the city’s government center.

Supporters of the proposal, meanwhile, said Tuesday they are building public support via Facebook and other social media. They hope the Democratic-dominated council will see through what they call last-minute scare tactics and pass the proposal. It would extend the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance to include sexual orientation in places of public accommodation, prohibiting businesses from refusing to serve gays, lesbian and transgender customers.

Scott Bishop, board chairman of the Mecklenburg LGBT Political Action Committee, which worked with the city to craft the proposed ordinance changes, charged that opponents were running “a fear-based, not a fact-based” campaign that spreads misinformation.

“This does not allow men to go into women’s bathrooms or women to go into men’s,” Bishop said. “Transgender women are women, and transgender men are men.…That’s where the misunderstanding is – who transgender people are. A lot of public education needs to take place.”

Bishop said the proposed ordinance change would merely allow those who are harassed or victimized by violence to file a complaint.

As for transgender persons using the bathroom they feel most comfortable using, said the Rev. Mark Harris, pastor of First Baptist Church of Charlotte, “the obvious danger … is a guy with a skirt and a wig would go into a (women’s) bathroom.”

Harris, who is scheduled to speak at Monday’s rally opposing the ordinance change, said the proposal is bad policy on several levels. He said it would let government tell a private company who to do business with – all to remedy discrimination he doesn’t think exists in Charlotte.

“Somebody is trying to create a solution looking for a problem,” Harris said.

Franklin Graham, who heads the Charlotte-based Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, has also weighed in against the proposal.

In a statement, he called it “ridiculous,” “unsafe,” and said it would “open the door, literally, to all sorts of serious concerns, including giving sexual predators access to children.”

But supporters of the proposal said there’s no documented evidence equating transgender people with predators. In fact, they said, it’s transgender people who are the victims when protections are not in place.

Bathroom scare tactics “are something they’re using to take the focus off the real issues,” said Chad Sevearance, president of the Charlotte Business Guild, the chamber of commerce for the LGBT community. “Fortune 500 companies believe that LGBT (employees) are the best and the brightest. (Before coming to Charlotte), they’ll be looking at how their people are going to be protected from discrimination.”

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