About 40 preachers, mostly African-American, rallied on the State Capitol grounds on Tuesday to take offense at comparing the fight for LGBT protections to the civil rights movement of the 1960s.
The idea for the rally crystalized after Clarence Henderson, one of the students who participated in sit-ins at the Woolworth’s diner in Greensboro in 1960, wrote an op-ed piece in last week’s Charlotte Observer saying it was a gross exaggeration to compare the two issues.
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, in announcing a lawsuit against North Carolina over the new law, described the controversy as part of an arc of history related to discrimination in all its forms. The Obama administration followed by ordering public schools to make accommodations for transgender students.
“We are here to debunk and dispel the fallacious ideologies that many have attached to HB2, which is simply common sense,” said John Amanchukwu of the Upper Room Christian Academy in Raleigh. “Our president and our attorney general have made some inflammatory comments that are erroneous at best.”
The N.C. Values Coalition pulled together like-minded pastors from across the state for Tuesday’s hourlong event. Several of the speakers were from Charlotte congregations that worked against a Charlotte city ordinance that would have allowed transgender people to use the restrooms matching their gender identities. Opponents say that exposes women and children to criminals.
The ministers urged the General Assembly and Gov. Pat McCrory to stand up to LGBT and other advocates who are calling for a repeal of HB2, which among other things pre-empted local LGBT anti-discrimination laws including Charlotte’s ordinance.
Henderson and others recounted historical injustices against blacks — from slavery to lynchings to segregation — as well as lingering racism today, such as police profiling.
“Whatever it is you call yourself doing, don’t call it civil rights,” Henderson said.
Lynch, in North Carolina Tuesday to celebrate local police work, was asked about the pastors’ comments.
“While the civil rights movement certainly in this state focused on racial discrimination, civil rights and human rights are not limited to any one particular issue or even one particular group of people,” Lynch said during a news conference after her community policing tour in Fayetteville.
“Where there are people who feel victimized and are indeed victimized and made to feel vulnerable simply because of a physical characteristic over which they have no control — that is exactly what the civil rights laws are meant to cover,” Lynch said.
Staff writer Anne Blythe contributed to this report.