CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The final Charlotte mayoral debate between Democrat Vi Lyles and Republican Kenny Smith was held Wednesday night, and the topic of LGBTQ rights was among those discussed.
Smith voted against the city’s expanded nondiscrimination ordinance offering LGBTQ protections in both 2015 and 2016, and has said that the state should decide the issue. He especially objects to the transgender bathroom protections portion of the ordinance, which passed last year 7-2 despite his “No” vote.
It was later nullified by House Bill 2 (HB2), and then repealed in order to get a compromise, which came in the form of House Bill 142 (HB142). That bill has been called HB2.0 by critics, as it prevents cities from enacting nondiscrimination ordinances without state approval until at least 2020.
Smith has also said that he could use the mayoral veto against another nondiscrimination ordinance if elected.
Would Smith negotiate with state for LGBTQ rights to gain Amazon headquarters?
As we saw with the HB2 boycotts, companies are less likely to do business in states that allow for discrimination against the LGBTQ community.
Since Smith has said the state should decide the issue, the Charlotte Observer‘s Steve Harrison asked the Republican if he would go to Raleigh to ask for LGBTQ protections if Amazon said it was a deal breaker in gaining its headquarters.
“I don’t think we want to re-litigate this issue, and I don’t think we want to put ourselves in a position where we’re going to tear everything down the rabbit hole,” Smith said. “I do think, and I stand by my statement, this issue should be resolved at the state or federal level. I think the folks in Raleigh, they need to figure out what to do.”
Republicans currently hold a supermajority in both the House and Senate.
He also noted that he received an email from former governor Pat McCrory telling him that if the transgender bathroom portion of the bill was taken out of the nondiscrimination ordinance, the state wouldn’t take action against it.
The moderator, WBTV’s Jamie Boll, seemingly dissatisified with that response, pressed Smith.
“Just real quick, if it was a deal breaker for Amazon, would you go to Raleigh, or no?” he asked.
Smith laughed at that notion, saying, “I don’t see a scenario where that plays out.”
“I will work with our partners in Raleigh to make sure that we stand up for Charlotte, and that we always have the things that are best needed for Charlotte,” he concluded.
Subscribe to our Weekly Newsletter:
Does Lyles regret trans bathroom protections vote?
Lyles was asked by the Observer‘s Katie Peralta if she would have removed the transgender protections portion of the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance if she were mayor at the time, knowing that the state objected to it.
Lyles voted for the nondiscrimination ordinance in 2015 and 2016. In 2015, she pushed for an amended version, after the full version failed, that would have left out the trans bathroom protections.
“This is really a very difficult question,” Lyles said. “And I think I’ve learned a lot of lessons through that debate, [and] the entire effort around the nondiscrimination ordinance. And I’m going to say what I learned.”
“I learned that as a city, we were alone in this effort. We were committed, and we were trying to do something that we thought we were doing [to help the] workforce. It was about respect and dignity for everyone,” she continued.
“I’ve always used the example that, if you’re inside the bank building and you’re working, you have those protections [as an LGBTQ person]. When do you change, when you walk out on the sidewalk?” she asked.
“We need to partner with other communities that have the same values and respect that we have for nondiscrimination laws and efforts,” she added, “and I would say go back when we can [to offer protections].”
“And I’m going to answer the question about Amazon: If it were a deal breaker, I’d be at the general assembly, and I’d be talking about the types of jobs [we could gain], and what difference it would make for our economic opportunity.
“We’ve got to do something,” she said. “So I would go to Raleigh.”
You can watch the full debate below. The questions on LGBTQ rights begin at the 48 minute mark.
Early voting continues through Saturday, Nov. 4, and Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 7.