It has been five years since Charlotte passed an LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance, and nearly six months since the sunset of HB142, the partial repeal of HB2, which included a clause prohibiting new nondiscrimination ordinances until December 1, 2020.
In the meantime, the LGBTQ community and its allies have been forced to sit and watch as other North Carolina cities and municipalities lead the way this time around, with discrimination protections passed in Orange County, Hillsborough, Carrboro, Chapel Hill, Greensboro, and Durham. They’re tired of waiting.
Dozens of LGBTQ advocates and organizers gathered outside of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center on Monday night, just over a week from the start of Pride Month, to urge Charlotte City Council to follow the aforementioned municipalities and pass an ordinance to protect some of its most marginalized citizens.
“We want equal access, not preferred treatment … but equal access to jobs, housing, and services,” said Cameron Pruette, president of the LGBTQ+ Democrats of Mecklenburg County.
“Our city council has delayed and delayed,” Pruette added, before noting a rash of violence against transgender people in recent years in Charlotte. “And our city has decided that they should not have equal access to jobs, that they should not have equal access to places to live. No wonder they end up in desperate circumstances, and end up at risk.”
In April of this year, two Black transgender women, Jaida Peterson and Remy Fennell, were shot and killed, as was another Black trans woman named Monika Diamond the year before. At least six transgender people have been killed in Charlotte over the past six years.
“Charlotte intentionally harms people,” said Charlotte NAACP President Corine Mack. “And when I say Charlotte, I’m not talking about the citizens, I’m talking about those that we elect into office. And so we have a responsibility to hold people accountable.”
“We have nine Democrats on that city council that cower in fear, when we have a governor that was re-elected on this very issue,” added Jenny Jaymes-Gunn, a NOW Charlotte board member, referring to Gov. Roy Cooper, who signed HB142 into law.
“We have a courage shortage in there,” Jaymes-Gunn continued, pointing at the Government Center, where Charlotte City Council was holding a meeting, “and if they don’t wake up, they’ll get evicted next year … Charlotte is the crown jewel of North Carolina, at least follow for Christ’s sake. Don’t live in fear.”
Mecklenburg County commissioners unanimously passed a largely symbolic LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination resolution in early February, about a week after Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles publicly signaled support for the city to pass such an ordinance. The county resolution also includes protections for those with natural hairstyles.
Still, there has been no movement since then on the issues that, in January, Lyles called “important,” while pledging that the city council would be “taking [it] up in the coming months.”
Mayor Pro Tem Julie Eiselt also expressed her support in January, and argued council wasn’t “dragging our feet on this,” but wanted to ensure it was done “the right way.”
“This coalition believes that Charlotte City Council has had ample time to discuss any outstanding issues, including having already received a drafted framework from the Community Relations Committee,” the organizations behind Monday’s rally said in a press release published on Charlotte Pride’s website.
Charlotte Pride president Daniel Valdez told the crowd he noticed local elected officials, including the mayor, expressing excitement on social media over the recent announcement that the organization’s annual festivities and parade would return to in-person events this year.
“I need them to be just as excited for this nondiscrimination ordinance as they are about our festival, about all the money, and the tourism, and everything that we bring to this community. More importantly, [we need] to remind them that Charlotte Pride, and the festival we do every year, it is not just a celebration, it is not just a party — it is a reinforcement, and a time and opportunity for us to recognize the struggle that our community has had, the intersections that our communities are a part of,” Valdez said.
“Our movement was born out of police violence and brutality, and was led by our amazing trans [people] and people of color in this community, and we must help them get that … and we must pass the nondiscrimination ordinance now. We cannot wait.”
Monday’s rally was organized by a coalition of local advocacy groups, including Charlotte Pride, Charlotte Black Pride, the NAACP Charlotte-Mecklenburg Branch, the Charlotte LGBT Chamber of Commerce, the LGBTQ+ Democrats of Mecklenburg County, the Charlotte NOW Chapter, Sunrise Movement CLT Hub, Charlotte Moms Demand Action, and the African-American Caucus of the Mecklenburg Democratic Party.
Advocates are asking supporters to sign a petition that outlines the following as desired classes for protection: gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, natural hairstyles, pregnancy, marital or familial status, national origin, or veteran status. Organizers reported on Monday that it had garnered over 1,500 signatures.
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