Politics & Government

City’s mayors fall on both sides of LGBT debate

Two Charlotte mayors are bookending the battle that has landed the city and state in national headlines.

Democratic Mayor Jennifer Roberts spearheaded the anti-discrimination ordinance designed to protect the rights of gay and transgender individuals. Republican Gov. – and former mayor – Pat McCrory signed legislation overturning the ordinance and preventing others like it throughout the state.

So how do other Charlotte mayors feel? Did Roberts go too far? Did McCrory?

Democrat Anthony Foxx, now the U.S. secretary of transportation, was asked about the issue Tuesday when he was in town to speak to the Charlotte Rotary. He told my colleague Katie Peralta and other reporters that the bill McCrory signed goes “beyond ideology.”

“This is going into a level of tyranny that I think is dangerous,” he told them. “Frankly, we’re having this big food fight over who people love, and why are we doing it? We’ve got kids who aren’t making progress in school, why don’t we focus on that?”

Republican Richard Vinroot thinks both sides went too far. He said Charlotte’s ordinance didn’t have to make LGBT protections extend to bathrooms. “That’s the part I thought went way out on the limb,” he said.

The bathroom provision, he said, “invited men to walk into women’s bathrooms and pretend to be confused about who they are.”

But he said the General Assembly may have gone too far by not only stopping the city ordinance from taking effect but pre-empting local employment laws.

“They probably should have limited it to the bathroom issue,” Vinroot said. “And I think Pat probably feels that way too.”

Democrat Harvey Gantt defends the city’s action.

He harkens back to the days when he became the first African-American student at Clemson University, and the hurdles that South Carolina state government tried to put in his way.

“You can’t have an anti-discrimination law and decide that you’re going to have one little piece that we’re still going to have discussions on,” he said. “If you’re going to end discrimination for people in a set class you’ve got to do it comprehensively. I don’t think you do it piecemeal.”

Former Democratic Mayor Patsy Kinsey, a member of the City Council, voted for the ordinance. Democrat Dan Clodfelter and Republican Sue Myrick couldn’t be reached. Clodfelter supported a similar ordinance last year. Myrick’s son, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, helped call the special session that passed the bill that McCrory signed.

Eddie Knox, a former Democrat and former Republican who’s now unaffiliated, thinks both sides reacted too strongly.

“It’s all an overreaction,” he said. “We’ve got so many problems … besides where you’re gonna pee.”

Charles Jeter’s Twitter star turn

The controversy has not only landed North Carolina in the news but apparently some individual lawmakers. Republican Rep. Charles Jeter, who was out of the country during last week’s vote, found himself in a Twitter dialog with TV talk show host Montel Williams.

He told Williams there are parts of the new law (the parts dealing with employment and contracting law) that he’d like to see repealed.

He also exchanged tweets with musician Sean Lennon, which he said led to a 45-minute phone call between the two.

“I’m a big Beatles fan,” Jeter said. “And having a chance to talk to John Lennon’s son was a surreal experience.”