The Charlotte City Council’s decision to outlaw discrimination against gay people upset a segment of this community, but to better appreciate why doing so was essential, go back in time and substitute “black” for “gay” in Tuesday’s news reports.
“After more than three hours of impassioned public comment Monday night, Charlotte City Council approved new legal protections for black people – a decision that will likely provoke a battle with the General Assembly …
“The changes mean businesses in Charlotte can’t discriminate against black customers…”
It makes the opposition seem archaic. Discrimination against gays is not as pervasive or overt as it was against blacks decades ago, but it is not extremely rare, either. Failing to pass the ordinance would have been the equivalent of saying, “We’re fine with businesses discriminating against people based on their sexual orientation.”
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The rapid success of the push to legalize gay marriage – and the Supreme Court’s endorsement of it last year – was evidence that society is belatedly recognizing that discriminating against people because of their sexual orientation is indefensible.
Yet Republican legislators and Gov. Pat McCrory made clear the legislature would work to overturn all or part of the ordinance. State Rep. Dan Bishop, R-Mecklenburg, has threatened legal action for weeks. McCrory emailed two City Council members over the weekend warning of “immediate” action by the legislature. And House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, issued a statement Tuesday promising to explore “legislative intervention to correct this radical course.”
Legislators should consider the 250 cities and counties that Mayor Jennifer Roberts said have passed similar ordinances without the scary consequences some predict. History is littered with warnings of apocalyptic results of extending basic human rights to minority groups. All were wrong.
Much of the opposition to Charlotte’s ordinance is focused on a provision that allows transgender people to use the bathroom of the gender with which they identify. Opponents say that puts women and children at risk in public restrooms.
In fact, transgender people are the ones most likely to be victims of harassment. Sexual predators can go into a bathroom of either gender now. As gay rights activist Scott Bishop said Monday night, “Sexual predators are not waiting on Charlotte City Council to pass a law so they can break a law.”
Society should not stigmatize a set of people by questioning whether they belong in a certain bathroom. Endorsing that sends a message that transgender people are less than the rest of us.
Legislators should leave well-enough alone. It’s clear, however, that they have no intention of doing so. At a minimum, they should not target the entire ordinance; we have yet to hear a sound reason sexual orientation should not be included in non-discrimination ordinances along with race, gender, age and other characteristics. The bathroom provision should stand, too, but if legislators are hell-bent on defeating it, they should not take the rest of the ordinance down with it.