In the days before Monday’s Charlotte City Council meeting, the Charlotte Chamber urged council members to pursue a compromise with state lawmakers over HB2. That nudging included an op-ed in the Observer calling for the council to symbolically rescind the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance that HB2 had rendered null and void.
In those same days before Monday’s meeting, the Human Rights Campaign and other LGBT advocates told council members not to make a deal – and definitely not one that involved pulling back even symbolically from its ordinance.
Both organizations, the Chamber and HRC, were doing what they were supposed to do. The Chamber was advocating for businesses threatened by HB2. HRC was protecting an LGBT community that’s now more vulnerable to discrimination.
All of which happens every day with public officials and private groups. It’s called lobbying.
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On Monday, HRC called it something else. A spokesman, following up on a tweet, said the Chamber was an “anti-LGBT bully.”
That’s a word – bully – that we hear a lot lately, including in this HB2 debate. You’ve heard it, too: City Council members bullied Charlotte businesses with its ordinance. State lawmakers bullied cities with HB2. The Obama position is bullying everyone on gender identity in bathrooms.
It’s a pretty powerful label, even when it’s used passive-aggressively. It resonates, especially with parents, thanks to the attentiveness these days on bullying at school or online. Add “anti-LGBT” to it, and you’ve doubled up with an even more potent “B” – bigot.
In the Chamber’s case, that’s also not true. In his Observer op-ed, Chamber President Bob Morgan emphasized in the opening paragraph that “the only acceptable outcome are policies at the city and state level that prohibit discrimination against all people.” A compromise, he said, was the best way to get there.
The HRC disagreed. So, by the way, did we. The particular deal the state was offering wasn’t a good one for Charlotte.
As it turns out, the HRC’s tactic worked. Instead of arguing for compromise, the Chamber howled Monday at being called an anti-LGBT bully. On Tuesday, it urged the state to let cities protect whomever they wanted from discrimination. Meanwhile, at least a couple council members who considered an HB2 compromise instead fell into place. The vote over repealing the ordinance was canceled.
So there’s a temptation to argue that the greater good was done here. And let’s be clear: We’re glad HRC has taken up the cause against HB2. The organization is very adept at defending LGBT rights, because it’s very adept at the hand-to-hand combat that comes with public debates. Look no further than the bruises left on Pat McCrory over HB2.
But this week, the organization went too far. It was an unnecessary attack, and it diminished the very real bullying that people endure, including individuals HRC wants to protect.
It also left a bad taste, even for some of us who want HB2 gone. The Chamber was tagged with a label that doesn’t wash away easily, and we’re disappointed that other than council member Kenny Smith, the mayor and council sat meekly by Monday while someone did damage to an important Charlotte organization.
You could almost call it the B-word. As for the council and mayor, we’ll settle for a C: Cowardly.
Peter St. Onge is Associate Editor of the editorial pages. Reach Peter at 704-358-5029; firstname.lastname@example.org.