First off, it has been quite a while since I have written on my blog. Sorry, and Not Sorry! Lot’s of things in life get in the way, and I know I cannot call myself a true writer yet, not until all I can think about doing from the time I wake up, until the time I fall asleep, is wanting to carve out a little time for writing. Obviously I am not there yet, although I am writing about and commenting on daily, things I see and find, on my social media streams. Last night, I watched some live streaming on the Internet, that compelled me to write again, and for that, I am thankful.
Charlotte, North Carolina’s City Council last night decided once again, to allow discrimination to exist in my LGBT Community, and it was all captured through the magic of the Internet. An ordinance was debated and voted on, to include protections to the LGBT Community, that are already available by statute, to most of Charlotte’s citizens. If passed, Charlotte would have become the first city in North Carolina to pass LGBT-inclusive public accommodations and other protections. That would have meant that LGBT people could not be denied service in businesses open to the public, like restaurants, hotels, bars or movie theaters. Other ordinances proposed for amending — adding marital status, familial status, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression — included commercial contracting, passenger vehicles for hire and regulations for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Community Relations Committee.
To the City Council’s credit, the town hall debate, and subsequent vote, were all streamed on the Internet, Live, although that may happen for all City Council meetings, I do not know. Almost 120 speakers signed-up, and took turns addressing the Council on their opinions of the ordinance. It was definitely an example of Democracy in action, and I do applaud the crowd for remaining civil and courteous for the most part, and Council seemed attentive and had an overall control of the room. The citizenry’s comments lasted from approximately 6pm to 10pm, before the hour or so it took the City Council to vote on the ordinance shortly after 11pm.
To my disappointment, most of those who signed up to talk were against the ordinance, and to no surprise, most were Christian Conservatives. Also disappointing, was the amount of speakers that did not live or own businesses in Charlotte. I do not believe that they deserved to speak, since they had no real standing in the matter. There was the usual religious nonsense and homophobia, but the argument most of them were making, was against the ‘Public Accommodation,’ clause and how they were in fear for their daughters of a man being in the restroom with them. Some going so far as to say that this would cause sexual predators to start dressing up as women, to gain access to them in public restrooms. While I cannot say that would never happen, I feel it would happen less than the ridicule that would be meted out for a transgender woman to have to walk into a men’s room to go to the bathroom.
It was a surreal feeling, watching so many people speak out against my rights as on openly gay man, who may also be fired, denied housing, and other discriminatory practices that are also legal here in my state of Ohio. You often hear of discrimination, but it is different to watch it from face after face, out in the open, not ashamed or afraid to deny a group of people their rights. I have seen “group-speak,” in the form of protesters, speaking out against our LGBT Community, at a rally or pride festival, but rarely have I seen individuals, one after the other, 70 or 80, speak hatred or inequality in a single setting. It is off-putting, especially when watching from far away, alone in your living room.
There were a good number of people who did speak up for the ordinance, although they were outnumbered. Voices rose from Allies, Activists, Transgendered, and Religious backgrounds, to speak on why the ordinance should be passed. There were personal stories of hate and discrimination, and soul affirming support from staunch allies. I believe these courageous people went in with the wind at their backs, depending on the tide of equality that is slowly rising over our country, would help carry this important piece of legislation. Unfortunately, as my friends and I have been discussing recently, equality and acceptance are two worlds still far apart in most of the United States.
After the speakers had their turn, it was time for the Council to vote. An amendment was immediately brought forth and seconded, to strip the controversial public accommodation in regards to bathrooms, locker rooms, showers, and changing rooms, from the ordinance. The debate that followed showed the split the Council had been working with on this ordinance, with two saying it should be all-inclusive or nothing, and two saying that in order to govern and get “some” progress in the city, they would reluctantly vote for the amendment, and a few steadfast detractors of the entire ordinance. Six of Eleven Council Members must vote yes, to pass any ordinance. After the debate, the amendment was accepted, clearing what I thought was the passage of the watered-down ordinance.
Surprise! The ordinance failed after the two Council Members, John Autry and LaWana Mayfield, the ones that did not support the amendment because they wanted they entire ordinance passed, voted against the amended ordinance, thus stopping ANY protections to be passed. The vote was especially stinging from Mayfield, as she was the first lesbian, ever to be elected to City Council. As much as I agree that the ordinance should have been passed as originated, I cannot believe that a member of our LGBT Community would hold up any progress that could be made out of the situation. I am especially concerned, knowing that it took from the first failure of an equal rights ordinance in 1992, until 2015 to get anything on the agenda again for equality. I understand her point and passion about an all-inclusive ordinance and that excluding any one of us, is a slap in the face to us all, but even a bitter pill staves off part of an ailment.
I am saddened and disappointed by this vote. I am sadder still to have witnessed all of the outright animosity to our Community that was on display by so many. This affects me not only as a gay male here in Northeast Ohio, but as a citizen of these United States of America. My brother lives 25 miles outside of Charlotte. I am saddened that the next time I visit, and he offers to take me to one of the fine dining establishments they have in Charlotte, I will have to decline. It is not a community’s fault for discrimination to exist because there has been no act of trying to change that from within their own laws, but to have the chance to end that discrimination, brought before a governing body and purposefully denied, should not, and will not be tolerated. For a link to this story, you may go to THIS LINK.
I am happy to have found some passion to write again, although sad it has to be on this topic of eye-witnessed discrimination. Thank you if you are still following along, and I hope this inspires me to keep at it as much as I love to inform and discuss……………..Scott