As previously reported, council members had been considering additional wording for its existing non-discrimination ordinance that would add sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, marital status and familial status to its current citizen protections. The addition had been requested by a member of the homosexual and transgender advocacy group Human Rights Campaign.
If passed, any places of public accommodation, such as restaurants and stores, would have been required to allow transgendered persons to use the restroom with which they are most comfortable. Locker rooms and showers would also fall under the same requirement.
But the proposal created controversy, both within city council and among area residents. A meeting last month at city hall was tense as some expressed apprehension over the potential ramifications of the legislation.
Council Member Kenny Smith said that he does not feel it is appropriate for people who are biologically of the opposite sex to share such a private and personal space as a restroom.
“I am not comfortable taking my six-year-old daughter into the men’s room, nor is it acceptable for me to go into the women’s room,” he stated. “And I think I should have full faith and confidence as I send my daughter into the restroom, who’s in that restroom.”
Council Member Al Austin, a homosexual, disagreed with those who expressed hesitation and stated that those council members were lagging behind on civil rights.
“[I]f you want to know about people being discriminated against because they are LGBT, it’s a bad feeling going into a restaurant and being asked to turn around,” he stated.
According to the Charlotte Observer, nearly 40,000 emails on both sides of the issue had been sent to city council from residents. By Monday, 120 people had signed up to speak at the council meeting about the proposal. The public comment period took over four hours.
“It is evil to allow men into women’s restrooms,” Adam Tennant told those gathered. “You’re going to stand before a holy God on the day of judgment.”
“This small minority of people want to use the government to bully and overcome the majority and overcome the law of God,” said Ante Pavkovic.
“Anti-discrimination laws exist to protect people, not your religious beliefs,” asserted Barbara Green. “Keep your faith but do what is right.”
Before a vote took place, city council decided by a majority to remove the restroom requirement section from the bill. However, it didn’t solve contentions as some council members who had supported the bill now stated they couldn’t vote for the proposal without the restroom protections.
Therefore, the measure was then voted down 6-5 as some opposed the ordinance altogether, and some opposed the compromise. Those who voted against the measure were council members Michael Barnes, LaWana Mayfield, John Autry, Ed Driggs, Greg Phipps and Kenny Smith. David Howard, Claire Fallon, Vi Lyles, Patsy Kinsey and Al Austin voted in favor of its passage.