Scott Bishop says yes, they’re needed to protect against discrimination; David Benham says no, common sense dictates a vote against.
Bishop is board chair of MECKPAC. He wrote this for the Observer on behalf of the Charlotte Non-Discrimination Ordinance Coalition.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Charlotte Observer
It’s gratifying to see the broad support across Charlotte for changes to city ordinances to prevent discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens. Charlotte voters showed what they thought about such discrimination in 2012 when they voted by a large margin against a state constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. Our city will again demonstrate its commitment to justice when City Council approves these ordinances.
Much of Charlotte’s progress on this issue has come because our LGBT citizens – your friends, neighbors and co-workers – have become more open about who they are. By doing so they’ve provided living examples to dispel the myths and fears that arose out of ignorance.
The proposed ordinances don’t break new ground. They simply recognize what is already the policy at businesses and institutions throughout this city.
Major employers such as Wells Fargo and Bank of America have won national awards for their vigorous programs of recruiting and supporting LGBT employees.
Catherine Bessant, a top Bank of America executive, explains why in a video on the bank’s website. “We want all of our teammates to be themselves at work,” she said. “It’s up to each of us to ensure that our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees feel included, feel valued and are confident that they have every opportunity to thrive at our company.”
What would these ordinances do? They would protect people from arbitrary discrimination in restaurants, bars, hotels, theaters, taxicabs and more. They also would require businesses that contract with the city to prohibit such discrimination.
That would make Charlotte’s nondiscrimination ordinances similar to those in hundreds of cities across America – including virtually every one that Charlotte considers a competitor.
We’re not talking just about California and New York. One of the latest to adopt such an ordinance was Myrtle Beach, S.C. Last June it added protections for “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to its human rights ordinance, which prohibits discrimination in employment, city services, education and public accommodations.
It’s interesting, but not surprising, that many opponents of these ordinances seem fearful of transgender persons’ use of women’s restrooms. Again, their fear is based in ignorance.
The Williams Institute at UCLA law school, which conducts research on sexual orientation and gender identity law and policy, estimates that 0.3 percent of Americans – that’s three people in 1,000 – identify as transgender.
That’s so few that most people don’t know any transgender persons, and probably wouldn’t recognize them if they saw them.
Where, you might wonder, do Charlotte citizens who were born male but identify as female and dress as women go to the restroom now? Well, where do you think? Women’s restrooms.
In businesses, institutions and government buildings, what opponents of these ordinances fear is already happening. Have you heard of any incidents arising from it?
There is no evidence – none – to indicate that transgender persons are a threat to anybody. To suggest they present a danger to children is not only ignorant but insulting.
Charlotte is known as a city where people can rise as high as their talent and ambition can carry them. These ordinances will open that opportunity to all of Charlotte’s citizens.
Benham is a Charlotte real estate entrepreneur.
Do you enjoy the freedom to live according to your conscience without being forced to promote ideas or behaviors contrary to your convictions? Do you believe men should be prohibited from using women’s restrooms? Should a gay T-shirt maker be forced to create anti-gay marriage T-shirts? Should a Muslim baker be mandated to make a gay wedding cake? That’s exactly what this ordinance will do if passed.
There are two obvious and disturbing common sense aspects to this provision. First, by allowing transgendered males to enter women’s restrooms our City is forcing all women, including mothers and daughters, to be put in uncomfortable situations in the privacy of bathrooms, locker and shower rooms.
Second, it opens the door for male heterosexual predators to pose as women under the guise of being transgender. Remember, being transgendered is a psychological state of mind that anyone can claim, no matter what clothes they wear. From Los Angeles, Milwaukee and Olympia, Wash., there are real examples of heterosexual men dressing like women and entering women’s rooms with intent to commit crimes. Historically, civil rights have never been provided to protect behaviors or psychological states of mind.
Do we really want the City Council to require all public restrooms and locker rooms be gender-neutral?
The expansive list of protections would also require business owners to promote or endorse events against their conscience. For the past 12 years, we’ve sold over 10,000 houses in this great city and have never required our customers to take a sexual-orientation litmus test. The vast majority of business owners in Charlotte, many owned by people of faith, already happily serve all customers, including those who identify as LGBTQ.
From Google and Sealed Air to CIAA and the DNC, our city is able to attract companies and events from around the world because Charlotte enjoys a unique balance between economic vibrancy and biblical values that are both welcoming and respectful. Research from the Alliance Defending Freedom legal organization could not in any case “provide a substantiated, or even alleged, pattern of sexual-orientation or gender-identity discrimination in Charlotte.” In other words, discrimination is not a problem here!
If this ordinance, advanced by LGBT rights groups, passes – everything changes.
Clearly, this ordinance isn’t really about non-discrimination. It’s about forcing the acceptance of behavior. This ordinance will place anyone who believes that (a) only women should be in women’s restrooms or that (b) business owners should not be forced to celebrate or endorse marriages that directly go against their conscience at risk of losing their business, being fined, or even facing time in jail if they simply stand by their convictions.
So what can we do?
1. If you live or work in the city of Charlotte, contact your elected members of the City Council and respectfully share your opposition to the ordinance.
2. Join us at 4 p.m. on Monday at the Charlotte Government Center before the proposed vote as we express our concerns. Then we will attend the council meeting together at 6:30 p.m.
3. Pray for clarity in this situation and for our council members, as 1 Timothy 2:1-3 encourages us to do.
In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “A man dies when he refuses to stand for that which is right.” My brother Jason and I will be looking forward to meeting you on Monday night.