On discrimination, a Charlotte minister asks our former mayor: Why now, Gov. McCrory?

People in favor of the nondiscrimination ordinance passing cheer after the Charlotte City Council voted 7-4 to approve the nondiscrimination ordinance in February.
People in favor of the nondiscrimination ordinance passing cheer after the Charlotte City Council voted 7-4 to approve the nondiscrimination ordinance in February. rlahser@charlotteobserver.com

From Rev. James C. (Jay) Leach, Senior Minister of Unitarian Universalist Church of Charlotte:

For twenty years – from 1989 until 2009 – Pat McCrory had a role in how the city of Charlotte operated. As a member of our City Council and then as mayor, McCrory had the opportunity over the course of two full decades to raise concerns about actions our city had taken that he regarded to be outside of “its core responsibilities.”

Year after year, while McCrory sat in a seat of leadership there were ordinances in place prohibiting discrimination. We have to assume that he was aware of these ordinances throughout his long years as a local politician. Surely he knew that leaders in Charlotte had enacted these ordinances as an expression of the kind of community we aspire to be.

Dan Bishop previously occupied a seat on Mecklenburg’s County Commission. Not once, but twice he appealed to our county for the opportunity to help make the decisions that would guide our county.

The entire time Bishop was a Commissioner, Mecklenburg County had ordinances in place expressing concerns about discrimination. We hope he was aware of these ordinances throughout his stint as a local politician.

Dan Bishop turned his political ambitions to Raleigh in 2014. Since his election as a North Carolina representative he has been in a position to help guide the course of our state. By his own account, he has demonstrated expertise in “litigating complex business and local government controversies.”

Did either McCrory or Bishop, in their positions of authority, ever experience concern about our city or county’s non-discrimination ordinances? Did they ever review the actions local bodies had taken and determine that these were beyond the scope of the responsibilities accorded by our state government? Did they ever raise such concerns publicly? Did they ever try to lead an effort to expunge these declarations against discrimination? Did either of them ever appeal to the Mecklenburg delegation to Raleigh to assist in a concerted effort to eliminate Charlotte and Mecklenburg County’s mistaken overreach?

I find no evidence that either McCrory or Bishop ever acted on these concerns. In fact, they seem completely complicit in allowing such ordinances to remain in place.

However, when our City Council approved an ordinance that is so in keeping with the ambitions of healthy, welcoming cities that is already in place in Myrtle Beach and Orlando (hardly hotbeds of radical liberalism), they seemingly suddenly discovered the concept of “overreach.”

With this new-found realization, Bishop insisted on calling our state’s government into emergency session. There he presented his hastily-crafted bill, one kept from his colleagues until moments before the vote, because suddenly local government ordinances created a crisis more threatening than any he has experienced in his time as a Raleigh politician.

Rushing through nominal deliberation, a majority of our General Assembly approved a bill declaring that Charlotte and Mecklenburg County along with all other cities and counties are now prohibited from expressing opposition to discrimination of any kind. And, in the dark of night, now-Governor McCrory signed this regrettable bill into state law.

We’re left to wonder why these two remained silent for so long. Why did they knowingly allow such egregious overreach to continue unchallenged for years? Why, when they had the opportunity locally to redress this serious concern, did they remain complicit? Why, suddenly, does what Bishop denounces as “illegal” and “state pre-empted” become a crisis so serious that it could not wait a few weeks to be addressed carefully and calmly?

Gov. McCrory, Rep. Bishop, your allegiances may now be with Raleigh. But, those of us still living in Charlotte would welcome some explanation for your inconsistencies.