Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Council holds new vote on nondiscrimination ordinance, awaits action from state

Posted By on Wed, Dec 21, 2016 at 11:44 AM

click to enlarge City attorney Bob Hagemann addresses council members at an emergency meeting this morning. - RYAN PITKIN
  • Ryan Pitkin
  • City attorney Bob Hagemann addresses council members at an emergency meeting this morning.

The Charlotte City Council held an emergency meeting this morning following reports that state lawmakers did not feel their Monday vote to repeal a nondiscrimination ordinance went far enough to justify a full repeal of House Bill 2.

An hour before a special session of the North Carolina General Assembly was to begin in Raleigh, the council repealed Monday’s ordinance and voted again to fully repeal all changes made to the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance in February, when sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and marital status were added to the list of characteristics protected against discrimination in the city’s places of public accommodation.

Today’s change was based on the fact that the city’s protections against LGBT discrimination by city vendors were left in place on Monday, which led some Republican lawmakers in the state to believe the city was trying to cheat on the agreement to repeal its non-discrimination ordinance with the understanding it would lead to the repeal of HB2.

City officials said those protections were left in place because they were not preempted by HB2, and it was their understanding that only parts of the ordinance affected by HB2 were to be rescinded. Today’s vote fully repealed all changes made to the nondiscrimination ordinance in February.

click to enlarge Mayor Jennifer Roberts and council members listen as Hagemann explains today's changes. - RYAN PITKIN
  • Ryan Pitkin
  • Mayor Jennifer Roberts and council members listen as Hagemann explains today's changes.
The miscommunication between city and state officials added to the already growing rift between them, as two council members backed out of supporting today’s vote after voting in support on Monday.

Council members LaWana Mayfield and Al Austin, both open members of the LGBT community, voted against today’s repeal.

“This language was created based on a weekend of conversations that I really was not a part of,” Mayfield said after the vote. “The reps in the General Assembly said this is what you wanted, so to say that we were not being forthright and honest, I have a clear concern about.”

Mayfield and Austin had voted in favor of Monday’s ordinance, which passed unanimously. Council member Patsy Kinsey was absent from both votes, while council member John Autry was only absent from this morning's vote. In Monday's ordinance, a provision stated that if House Bill 2 were not repealed by Dec. 31, the nondiscrimination ordinance would go back into effect. No such provision appears to be attached to the ordinance passed today.

Mayfield said she has little confidence the legislature will follow through on its promises today.

“I would hope, but I have little faith in them representing our entire state and recognizing that this was spurred by legislation that they created, that caused a negative impact for all people regardless of your ethnicity and/or identity or expression,” she said.

Even some council members who voted in favor of full repeal of the nondiscrimination ordinance this morning came out of the meeting feeling uneasy about the implications of allegations from state lawmakers.

Julie Eiselt said she was unsure whether the legislature would repeal HB2 as promised.

“I have no idea now. I have no idea,” she said. “There is nothing that was uncovered that Raleigh didn’t know about and that we didn’t know about before, and this was a good faith effort. I’m discouraged that somebody would make it anything except that.”

The NCGA did convene this morning at 10 a.m., but has since recessed. They are expected to reconvene at 11:45 a.m. Creative Loafing will continue reporting on the story as it develops.

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