For Gay Rights Advocates, No Time To Rest After Charlotte Decision
It’s been a roller-coaster year across the state for gay rights advocates and opponents. In January, Greensboro became the first city in the state to pass a housing non-discrimination measure that includes protections for gays and transgendered people.
Then, on Monday night, the Charlotte City Council narrowly defeated an ordinance that would have added some protections for sexual orientation and gender identity.
Chris Sgro is executive director of the gay and transgender advocacy group Equality NC, and a resident of Greensboro. He says even though the Charlotte measure failed to pass, he believes other cities across the state will continue to push for anti-discrimination policies.
“I still think the fact that we had that conversation with a majority of the Charlotte City Council and got them to a place where they want to provide these protections is going to provide pressure for other parts of the state – municipalities across the state – to consider protections for gay and trans folks.”
One of the ordinance’s most contested provisions – which would have let transgendered people use the public bathrooms where they feel most comfortable – was removed before the vote. But there was still not enough support for it to pass. The anti-discrimination ordinance was defeated in a 6 to 5 vote after a four-hour debate.
Although a local measure, the Charlotte ordinance got statewide attention. The next controversial measure will likely take place not in a city hall but in the statehouse.
A House judicial committee will consider a bill Wednesday that would allow magistrates to bow out of performing gay marriages if it violates their religious beliefs.
The bill has already passed the state senate, where supporters said it provides an option for those who oppose gay marriage on moral grounds.
"I think our society's been thrown a curveball by a decision of some judges in the federal courts," Sen. Buck Newton, R-Wilson, told the Associated Press last month. "So now it falls to us to figure out how we're going to accommodate people's sincere religious belief and religious freedom and still comply with court orders and make sure that the law is followed."
Sgro says the bill, also known as Senate Bill 2, creates a dangerous precedent of allowing public servants to pick and choose what parts of their jobs to do.
“I really don’t think Senate Bill 2 is a partisan issue and it’s not even about same-sex marriage. It’s about public officials being able to do their jobs with taxpayer-funded positions.”
A poll by High Point University and the News & Record of Greensboro released Tuesday asked respondents statewide if magistrates should be able to opt out of performing same-sex marriages on religious grounds. Forty-eight percent opposed such an exemption, while 43 percent supported it.