Editorials

City Council shouldn’t sell out Charlotte’s LGBT community

The Observer Editorial Board

A compromise between the Charlotte City Council and N.C. lawmakers could result in HB2 being repealed, but not in a way that’s best for the LGBT community.
A compromise between the Charlotte City Council and N.C. lawmakers could result in HB2 being repealed, but not in a way that’s best for the LGBT community. dlaird@charlotteobserver.com

Gov. Pat McCrory and some N.C. lawmakers are encouraging the Charlotte City Council to make a compromise that might result in the repeal of HB2. It’s a bad deal for the city, and more importantly, for members of the LGBT community who would lose their best chance at protections from discrimination. Council members should not turn their backs on those residents now.

The compromise goes like this: Council members would vote Monday to repeal their non-discrimination ordinance, which had been nullified by HB2 anyway. Lawmakers would then call a special session later this week to consider repealing HB2.

As with a similar compromise offer back in May, council members are being asked to trust the legislature to follow through on its end of the deal. Here’s a hint about how that might go: In a condescending statement Saturday, House Speaker Tim Moore said that if Charlotte “fully and unconditionally” repealed its ordinance, “then I believe we have something to discuss.”

It’s a dismissive tone that overlooks an important bit of history:

In passing its non-discrimination ordinance in February, Charlotte followed the lead of at least 200 U.S. cities and counties. Charlotte’s ordinance, which included a provision addressing gender identity and bathrooms in public accommodations, was not groundbreaking. It’s what progressive cities do to protect their residents.

In passing HB2, which was a response to Charlotte’s ordinance, N.C. lawmakers did what no other state has done. The legislature removed LGBT protections already in place in Charlotte, and it told cities and towns they could not draft non-discrimination ordinances at any point.

In the months since, businesses have pulled projects, and performers have pulled events, from North Carolina. Now, the NCAA and ACC have announced they’re moving their athletic championships out of the state.

None of these businesses and organizations did so because Charlotte chose to protect members of the LGBT community. In fact, those CEOs and officials and performers have explicitly said they took action because of what N.C. lawmakers did.

And yet, lawmakers are once again proposing a compromise that places the burden on Charlotte.

That should be a strong signal to City Council members that if their ultimate goal is offering protections to the LGBT community, this is not a good deal.

Let’s imagine that lawmakers did follow through and repeal HB2. That would be a “reset,” lawmakers say. Certainly, it would offer them and McCrory relief from the intense pressure they’re under to do something about HB2.

What would Charlotte get from the “reset”? It might get the ACC Football Championship game back, for starters. The NBA also might bring its All-Star weekend back to the city in 2019 if HB2 were out of the way. Both possibilities, however, are far from certain.

But Charlotte also would be left without an ordinance that council members believed was important for the safety and dignity of the LGBT community. That ordinance was more than symbolic. It was designed to protect residents from very real discrimination.

Let’s be clear: House and Senate leaders have given zero indication they want Charlotte to have those LGBT protections, now or at any point. It’s worth noting that in his Saturday statement, House Speaker Moore again celebrated the false notion that HB2 provides for safer bathrooms and showers.

If Charlotte’s goal is to restore its protections, the city’s best chance comes with the political pressure that has brought us to this point. An HB2 compromise simply gives the governor and Republican lawmakers less reason to do what they don’t want to do.

Yes, a “reset” has an appealing ring to it. But it would be a step backward, both symbolically and practically. Would Charlotte be any closer to the protections it wants to offer? No. Would it get a football and basketball event back? Maybe.

Are those events worth selling out the LGBT community?

We believe the answer is no.

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