Politics & Government

LGBT Chamber president steps down after criticism of his sex-offender status

Chad Sevearance-Turner, former president of the Charlotte LGBT Chamber of Commerice, celebrated last year the Supreme Court’s decision to allow gay marriage.
Chad Sevearance-Turner, former president of the Charlotte LGBT Chamber of Commerice, celebrated last year the Supreme Court’s decision to allow gay marriage. dlaird@charlotteobserver.com

The former president of Charlotte’s LGBT Chamber of Commerce has resigned after he came under fire from a conservative group, which noted that he is on a sex offender list and questioned his role in supporting the city’s expanded nondiscrimination ordinance.

Chad Sevearance-Turner had been the president of the chamber, which supported the newly expanded ordinance that gives legal protection for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals.

At a City Council meeting Feb. 8, Mayor Jennifer Roberts cited a survey that showed discrimination was a real problem for the LGBT community. During the meeting, she said the survey was conducted by the LGBT Chamber.

That prompted questions from the N.C. Values Coalition, which opposes the new LGBT protections in the ordinance.

Tami Fitzgerald, who leads the Raleigh-based coalition, first mentioned Sevearance-Turner’s record at a Feb. 8 news conference outside the Government Center, which Sevearance-Turner attended. On Feb. 18, the coalition issued a news release further questioning the chamber’s role in the survey.

Because of his record, “any supposed evidence provided by the group is discredited,” she wrote.

Scott Bishop, the head of MeckPAC, a lobbying group for the LGBT community, said last month the chamber wasn’t involved in the survey. He said a social worker distributed the surveys, which were then forwarded to MeckPAC.

In an interview with the Observer, Sevearance-Turner said his group didn’t conduct the survey.

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.

Before he stepped down as chamber president, Sevearance-Turner said the N.C. Values Coalition’s criticism “did not surprise him.”

He said his conviction had not stopped him from achieving success, such as being chamber president.

He couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday. Q Notes, a publication that covers Charlotte’s LGBT community, reported Thursday that he had resigned.

Fitzgerald said Thursday that Sevearance-Turner’s role in supporting the ordinance is troubling.

“No one who is a convicted sex offender should be leading a campaign to allow men to be in women’s bathrooms and showers,” she said. “It’s just common sense.”

The most controversial part of Charlotte’s expanded nondiscrimination ordinance would allow transgender individuals to use either a men’s or women’s restroom. If the person identifies as female, they would be allowed to use a women’s restroom in places of public accommodation.

Opponents have said that would make it easier for men to prey on women and girls inside women’s bathrooms. Supporters said there are already laws against that, and that transgender people are the ones who face danger in bathrooms.

The N.C. General Assembly is considering a special session to overturn part of the ordinance.

The N.C. Republican Party issued a news release Monday highlighting Sevearance-Turner’s role in the nondiscrimination ordinance.

Steve Harrison: 704-358-5160, @Sharrison_Obs