The Charlotte City Council will meet soon to debate the proposed, LGBTQ-inclusive non-discrimination ordinances. Our leaders should pass them and stand firmly against acts of prejudice and discrimination. On behalf of the board of directors of Charlotte Pride, the city’s leading organization bringing education and awareness to and for local LGBTQ residents, we fully support the adoption of these changes protecting residents and visitors to our city against discrimination in public accommodations like hotels, restaurants and passenger vehicles.
Those opposed to these changes focus on bathroom use, opting for fear over facts and demonizing our transgender siblings. All the evidence clearly debunks their myths. Discrimination is ultimately bad for business and would have an adverse effect on events like ours and others held in our city.
The annual Charlotte Pride Festival and Parade are held each August, encompassing the full stretch of Tryon Street in uptown. Last year, our weekend events attracted more than 120,000 visitors. Nearly 20 percent came from out of town, staying overnight in hotels, dining at restaurants and socializing in bars and pubs. They visited local museums and landmarks and shopped at local retailers. They all did so without any guarantee they would be protected against discrimination – unable to take any official recourse if they had been denied service.
Visitors to our annual events deserve to know they’ll be protected in cases of discrimination, especially since they contribute so much to the city’s bottom line. Over the past two years, out-of-town visitors to the Charlotte Pride Festival and Parade have accounted for nearly $20 million in economic impact for the city. Their direct spending, over $7 million in 2015, supported hundreds of service-sector, hospitality and other jobs. Their dining, lodging and other expenses generated roughly $500,000 in Mecklenburg County taxes.
This kind of tourism is good for our city, its economy and its reputation.
Throughout the country, several cities have built LGBTQ-friendly reputations. If Charlotte wants to be a city that attracts and hosts large-scale LGBTQ community events, conferences and activities, its leaders must ensure that all visitors have the protections provided by these ordinances.
As Charlotte grows, so must its commitment to full equality and protection for all residents and visitors. City leaders must join with their peer cities, the large companies headquartered here and the many residents who have already cast aside myth and prejudice and know that anti-LGBTQ discrimination has no place in a just society.
Grimstad and Hopkins co-chair Charlotte Pride.