There were around 250 residents in attendance on Monday night for a forum at The Palmer Building to discuss adding LGBT protections to the city’s non-discrimination ordinance, one week ahead of City Council taking up the issue again after it failed to pass last March in a 6-5 vote against.
The forum was hosted by the Charlotte Community Relations Committee and the Committee Building Initiative, at the request of Mayor Jennifer Roberts, who has been vocal about her support for updating the ordinance to include protections for the LGBT community.
After an overview of what the updated ordinance would include, as well as some brief history concerning last year’s vote, delivered by City Attorney Bob Hagemann, there was a performance by experimental theater group XOXO Performance Ensemble, who portrayed community members with four different perspectives on the ordinance.
Two were on the side of passage, and two on the side against. One portrayed a businessperson for, one a businessperson against, another a mother worried about her children over the transgender bathroom issue — which was a key point of contention last year — and finally a transgender male who has experienced harassment in both male and female restrooms.
They were drawn from real stories, taken in part from last year’s debate before City Council. You can watch video from the performance below.
“I have a right to protect my children, and I don’t support a measure that would put my daughters at risk,” actress Anne Lambert said in a statement from the perspective of the concerned mother.
Performer Che Busiek, portraying the transgender male, said, “I’m not asking for special privileges. I just want a safe place to go to the bathroom, where I’m not touched, or harassed or yelled at.”
After the performance, those in attendance were asked to break up into small groups and discuss what the stories stirred in them, what is at stake for them personally and what the passage of the ordinance would mean to them.
This writer’s small group was about as diverse as could be, including, among others, a supportive mother of a gay son, a man who claimed to have struggled with same sex attraction before deciding it was an illegitimate identity, a member of the LGBT community who shot back that “gay people exist, all over the place, whether you like it or not,” an African-American man who took umbrage with some comparing the fight for LGBT equality with the 1960s Civil Rights Movement and a man who said he was raised Baptist, with anti-gay beliefs, and had come to understand that all discrimination is wrong and wanted to hear the stories of gay and trans people so he could be more informed.
After the small groups were done meeting, city representatives encouraged everyone to continue thinking about and discussing these issues, which will persist whether the ordinance passes or not.
City Council is scheduled to discuss the issue again on Monday, Feb. 8, although a vote has not been scheduled. There will still be a regular public forum at the City Council meeting, as occurred last year. The vote is expected to occur on Feb. 22.
The people opposed to this ordnance appear to be certain that they can tell a person’s gender by appearance. I suggest that Tami Fitzgerald. Dr. Harris and Mr Graham be judges of a group of people that they will determine are a man or woman by appearance. I think it is only right that they publicly prove how capable they are of correctly identifying the gender of an array of men and women to label by gender.
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