South Charlotte Weekly
More than 100 speakers addressed Charlotte City Council at its Monday, March 2, meeting regarding a proposed nondiscrimination ordinance. Some of those speakers identified themselves as south Charlotte residents, speaking both for and against the ordinance, which was struck down.
The ordinance, which would have amended sections of city code to extend nondiscrimination language to include gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, familial status and marriage status, failed to pass after a 6 to 5 vote.
District 7 representative Ed Driggs, along with councilmembers Greg Phipps, LaWana Mayfield, John Autry, Michael Barnes and Kenny Smith, voted against the ordinance.
Councilmembers removed a section of the ordinance that would allow transgender individuals to use the bathroom of the gender they identify with, before the final vote.
The ordinances, which were previously struck down in the late 1990s, were reintroduced to councilmembers by Charlotte Non-Discrimination Ordinance Coalition (CNDOC) representative Scott Bishop during a November 2014 meeting.
More than 30 of the more than 100 speakers, who were given a two-minute time limit, spoke in favor of the ordinance, including south Charlotte resident Peter Barr. Barr spoke on behalf of his transgender son, who graduated from Charlotte Latin School.
“Charlotte is a progressive city,” he told councilmembers. “Being part of a progressive city is important. Many are afraid of what they think this ordinance means for their children. I, too, have fears for my son and want him to feel safe enough to move back home … He is still my son; he is still the same person.”
More than 60 residents spoke out against the ordinances at the meeting. South Charlotte restaurant owner Richard Adams told council approving the ordinances would be “reverse discrimination.” Adams added he doesn’t discriminate in hiring practices and employs several LGBT community members, but said he felt the ordinances are “a violation of (his) liberties.”
Rev. Steve Triplett, of South Charlotte Baptist Church, also spoke out against the ordinances based on his religious convictions.
Nearly six hours after public comment began, Councilmember Vi Lyles made a motion to vote on the amended ordinances, which excluded the section regarding transgender people using public bathrooms, showers and changing rooms of the gender they identify with. Lyles said the combination of public outcry over the bathroom argument and knowing there weren’t enough council votes for the original ordinance, pushed her to motion for the amendment.
“I ran on the idea of collaboration,” Lyles said. “… The most important thing is to move us forward – protecting housing, taxicab service and public accommodations, with the exception of bathrooms.”
Councilmembers Autry and Mayfield strongly opposed amending the ordinance, but other councilmembers agreed with Lyles. The vote, 9 to 2, allowed the final decision to be in accordance with the exception motioned by Lyles.
“I cannot and will not support an amendment that does not support all citizens,” Mayfield said.
South Charlotte representative Driggs voted against the non-discrimination ordinances. He said he didn’t believe some rhetoric from both sides of the argument.
“I don’t like being called hateful and ignorant (by the LBGT community and advocates),” Driggs said, adding he voted against the issue because he wasn’t convinced there was enough compelling evidence presented in favor of it.
Driggs ended his public address by stating he and all councilmembers were doing the best they could with the information that was presented by all parties.