CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Christian Examiner) – Two liberals who could not accept a compromise amendment and four Christians who requested more expert opinion—beyond the singular input of homosexual activists who spearheaded the controversial ordinance—combined to defeat the proposed Sexual Orientation Gender Identity bill by a vote of 6-5.
The vote came after almost four and one-half hours of public comment delivered in two minute increments as members of the community spoke, and almost an hour of discussion by council members.
Opponents of the measure underscored safety concerns and highlighted instances in other cities where male predators pretended to be transgender persons in order to gain access to women's restrooms and threaten the welfare of children and young women.
Supporters decried the opposition's arguments as scare tactics and said even if the measure only affected 3 out of 1,000 people that minority deserved to live free of discrimination.
On the whole, despite strongly expressed feelings, the public comments were civil on both sides.
Yet there was no lack of drama or entertainment:
-- Just prior to the meeting, two young girls ran crying from a women's restroom in Charlotte City Hall when a transgender woman (a man with conflicting emotional and biological gender) attempted to use the single-gender facility ahead of the vote. Police removed the man from the woman's facility.
-- One pastor sang part of his remarks.
-- A transgender person who went by "Coco" spoke for two minutes then dramatically collapsed after leaving the microphone and caused a 5-minute delay in the proceedings.
But the most dramatic portion of the evening was during the council's deliberation about the measure when members traded barbs and made clear their positions on the proposed ordinance.
After the original wording was submitted for passage, Councilwoman Vi Lyles offered an amendment which removed restrooms, showers, locker rooms and changing areas from the public accommodations portion of the bill. Lyles said she supported the original wording, but the practical matter was there were not enough votes to pass the proposed ordinance. So, "to move this issue forward" she offered the compromise amendment.
But two council members, LaWana Mayfield, an African American woman, and John Autry, adamantly opposed the compromise.
Autry spoke emotionally about his daughter Sarah, saying he had no idea when he held her in the nursery she was going to grow up to be a "roller derby lesbian." Mentioning he heard a lot about "sin" and "choices" during public comments, he said he had to ensure "our freedom" by opposing any "walk back" from the original wording.
Mayfield, for her part, took issue with Christian speakers who cited biblical concerns and fears of religious liberty infringements like those highlighted in the news about bakers and florists who have been sued for declining to provide services to gay weddings. She spoke with obvious anger in telling them "judge not lest ye be judged" and announced she could not accept the counter proposal, claiming the compromise could give businesses leeway to force homosexuals to use a "gays only" restroom, an apparent reference to separate facilities for blacks and whites in the South during the civil rights struggle.
Four conservatives on the council agreed with the amendment, which was accepted on a 9-2 vote, but opposed the proposed ordinance overall, citing concerns about a "rush" to do something just to move the issue forward, and, they complained the ordinance had been drafted with a singular political input.
Councilman Kenny Smith said the bill did not solve a problem but promoted a political agenda.
"I think if it's passed, it will be a clear message to the city that the city council has voted to impose the progressive left's view of morality on the majority of our citizens," he said. He added that the law would allow activists to target local Christian businesses with the aim of forcing them to go against religious convictions or face fines.
Smith said the Human Rights Campaign, a Washington, D.C.-based homosexual rights organization, and the Mecklenburg LGBT Political Action Committee, a local gay advocacy group, shaped the bill with no counterbalancing input from experts on the other side.
Greg Phipps, an African American council member, questioned whether sufficient time and wisdom was given to an issue of such magnitude.
"I don't know that I'm comfortable with the amount of time, discussion, proper notification to people—people are upset that they weren't even aware that this was going on until recently, over the last week or so, ago," he said, "and that concerns me with this process."
Mayor Pro Tem Michael Barnes, also an African American, told his colleagues on the council that for him the matter came down to a basic matter of public safety. He said parents had contacted him with concerns about their small children being in restrooms with adults of the opposite sex and for wives being in restrooms with men.
"I have those same concerns for my kids. It's difficult for me to separate myself from my duties as their father," he said. He also mentioned his wife had an upsetting experience with unisex facilities at her work and said it is not fair for anyone to suggest her fears are not valid.
Councilman Ed Driggs said he was concerned because the issue came into council and the attorney was instructed to draft the changes "before there was any conversation. It took a pretty big push back from a couple of people to say hold on."
He said the council should have had a chance to hear from someone with equal standing to the outside experts from the HRC who brought the proposed ordinance to the council and worked with the city attorney to draft the bill under consideration.
In the end, the vote was taken with a show of hands: Autry and Mayfield with Barnes, Driggs, Phipps and Smith opposed the ordinance, and it failed 6-5.