Monday, March 2, 2015

Tonight: The nondiscrimination ordinance battle comes to a head

Posted By on Mon, Mar 2, 2015 at 12:09 PM

This evening, City Council will tackle one of the most divisive issues to hit Charlotte in recent months: bathrooms.

Well, the proposed LGBT nondiscrimination ordinance is about more than that, but that's the part critics have honed in on.

What's the issue really about? Keeping all people safe from discrimination. Council is considering updating City Code to add marital status, familial status, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression to the list of characteristics protected under law. If passed, taxis couldn't refuse to pick up LGBT passengers. Businesses couldn't refuse to service or sell goods to those who identify LGBT either, and if they did, they could be barred from doing business with the city for up to two years.

Oh, and these protections would extend to public accommodations. Transgender people could use whichever bathroom they feel most comfortable in without being harassed, like one CPCC student was last year.

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It's not a ground-breaking move. Minneapolis adopted a similar ordinance in 1975.

But the naysayers have been in full-on battle mode, launching a campaign to sway Council members to vote against the ordinance. In a pros/cons comparison published in the Observer this weekend, David Benham, identified as a "real estate entrepreneur" but known for his anti-gay and anti-abortion rhetoric, summed up the opposition's argument in his contribution:

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.

Scott Bishop, who represents the Charlotte Nondiscrimination Ordinance Coalition, argued that the opposition's "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.

The thing that's absolutely perplexing to me is why Christians are spearheading this bathroom fight. With all that's going on in Charlotte, let alone the world, this — THIS — is what they're focusing their energy on? What about using that platform to criticize greedy developers? Or fight against human trafficking? Poverty? Homelessness? There are plenty of problems plaguing Charlotte that Benham and his fellow critics could get in on. Fighting an ordinance that will give transgenders the right to choose whichever bathroom they feel comfortable using is just not worth the time and energy.

I'm sure this will get me some angry emails, but I think Jesus would agree with me, too. I can't recall any scriptures that addressed one's right to use the facilities. But I'll happily update this post if someone enlightens me.

Alas, it'll all come to a head tonight. Don't Do It Charlotte, the grassroots organization that came together to tell councilmembers to vote against the ordinance, has organized a rally starting at 4 p.m., with Benham, First Baptist Church pastor Mark Harris and others. Supporters of the proposal will also be out at Government Center and are encouraging LGBT and ally Charlotteans to come out wearing blue.

It's going to be a packed house: About 80 people are scheduled to speak at tonight's Council meeting.

Want to read more? Matt Comer over at QNotes has been on top of this debate since the beginning.

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