Metro Weekly

North Carolina calls special session to block Charlotte LGBT ordinance

Special session to repeal LGBT legal protections will cost taxpayers $42,000 a day

North Carolina State Capitol in Raleigh, N.C. (Photo credit: Daderot, via Wikimedia Commons).
North Carolina State Capitol in Raleigh, N.C. (Photo credit: Daderot, via Wikimedia Commons).

The North Carolina Legislature is convening a special session on Wednesday to block a pro-LGBT rights ordinance that was approved by the Charlotte City Council last month.

Lawmakers acted on their own, with Lt. Gov. Dan Forest (R), who presides over the Senate, and House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Kings Mountain) invoking a rarely used provision to call the special session after Gov. Pat McCrory refused to call for one. McCrory said he did not call the session because he is worried that legislators will consider a measure that overreaches and goes beyond just dealing with the Charlotte ordinance, The News & Observer reports. For instance, one of the concerns was that North Carolina lawmakers might pass legislation to allow public accommodations or for-profit businesses to refuse service to LGBT people by citing religious objections.

But Moore insists that McCrory’s concerns are overblown, saying: “I don’t believe there’s reason for concern. This bill is drawn a narrowly as possible to deal with the issues at hand.”

As part of the special session, legislators could either repeal the full ordinance, amend the part of it dealing with public accommodations, or force the measure onto the November ballot for approval by voters. Both Moore and Forest have argued that the special session is necessary to “provide for the privacy and protection of the women and children of our state.” The session is expected to cost taxpayers $42,000 per day.

Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts (D) called the special session a “waste of taxpayer money,” advising the legislature to focus on more pressing issues. 

The ordinance, as approved by the Charlotte City Council, extends nondiscrimination protections for the LGBT community in employment, housing and public accommodations. It was slated to go into effect on April 1. But the point of contention, as with many other pro-LGBT ordinances passed in a number of other cities, centers around allowing transgender people to use the bathroom consistent with their gender identity. Social conservatives have pointed to that provision to allege that transgender people are sexual predators who pose a risk, particularly to women and girls, in public restrooms.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which supports the ordinance as approved by the city council, argues that social conservatives’ rhetoric around the ordinance, particularly as it pertains to transgender people and bathroom usage, is based on false and misleading claims designed to instill fear in people who have not read the bill closely or who are unfamiliar with the LGBT community.

“…Lawmakers claim to be protecting privacy but in reality are setting the stage for increased intrusions into everyone’s medical privacy and bodily autonomy,” Chase Strangio, an attorney for the ACLU, said in a statement. “…States, cities, and schools have protecting LGBT people from discrimination for years and in some cases decades without public safety incident.”

Another pro-LGBT group, Freedom for All Americans, released its own statement in response to the special session.

“It’s astonishing that lawmakers are willing to waste thousands — potentially hundreds of thousands — of taxpayer dollars on efforts to advance discrimination,” said Matt McTighe, executive director of Freedom for All Americans. “Nondiscrimination ordinances strengthen local economies and communities. It’s hard to understand why lawmakers are going out of their way to strip protections away from some North Carolinians, while jeopardizing the state’s reputation in the process. It appears as though North Carolina’s political leaders are taking their cues from election year politics rather than the best interests of their constituents, and in the process they’re wasting taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars.”

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