CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The president of Charlotte’s LGBT Chamber of Commerce (CLGBTCC) quietly resigned on Feb. 22 following attacks from a conservative group that revealed his status as a convicted sex offender.
The revelations were made public by Tami Fitzgerald of the N.C. Values Coalition, a conservative advocacy group that vocally opposed the recent expansion of Charlotte’s non-discrimination ordinance.
Fitzgerald announced the details of Sevearance-Turner’s background at a Don’t Do It Charlotte press conference two weeks before the city council vote, and his conviction was mentioned several times by people speaking out against the ordinance at the Feb. 22nd city council meeting.
Court records obtained by QNotes show Chad Sevearance-Turner, 38, was convicted of committing a lewd act on a minor in 1998. He was 19 and working as a music minister at a church in Gaffney, S.C. The minor was a 15-year-old boy who attended the church.
Severance-Turner was sentenced to 10 years in prison, and he served two years before being released on parole. He has had no further violations since.
He had been advocating for the expansion of the non-discrimination ordinance in recent months, and even before that, served as a highly visible leader of Charlotte’s LGBT community.
Severance-Turner often appeared at community fundraisers and social events, and regularly spoke with local media outlets in support of expanding rights to LGBT people and businesses in the Charlotte region.
Last year, he was named qnotes’ 2015 Person of the Year for his work leading the CLGBTCC. The reporter who wrote the story was not aware of his sex offender status.
He also drew honors from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), which named the CLGBTCC this year’s N.C. Organization of the Year. Sevearance-Turner accepted the award on the chamber’s behalf at last month’s HRC NC Gala. HRC leaders declined to say whether they were aware of Sevearance-Turner’s past conviction.
In an interview with qnotes, Sevearance-Turner said the decision to resign was fully his.
“What I didn’t want to do was allow the right to continue to detract and to continue throwing stones at an organization that has done absolutely nothing but help individuals and our community in our city,” he said.
Sevearance-Turner declined to comment on the details of his conviction, and dismissed them as irrelevant.
“If this had anything to do with the non-discrimination ordinance, and if it had any credence or validity with what we’re discussing as a city and as an LGBT community, then I would absolutely welcome the interrogation,” he said, “but I think that it detracts from the real conversations we’re having.”
Sevearance-Turner will remain an advisory to the board, and says he is in the process of filing a lawsuit against Fitzgerald and the outspoken activist brothers Jason and David Benham for misusing information from the sex offender registry. Per federal and state law, use of registry information is limited to purposes of informing the public or protecting a person at risk. Information cannot be used for intimidation, threats, or harassment of an offender.
The CLGBTCC’s Melissa Morris succeeds Sevearance-Turner as the organization’s president, and becomes the organization’s first African-American woman to hold the position. She was elected to the board last year as vice president of external affairs.
Reached by phone, Morris said the CLGBTCC board had long been aware of Sevearance-Turner’s history, but didn’t consider it relevant to his current work.
She says board members urged Sevearance-Turner not to resign, but he insisted his resignation was needed to stop possible future attacks from groups like the N.C. Values Coalition.
“We’re like a family, and as a family, it’s difficult for us to see any one of us put in a bad situation,” she said. “It’s disheartening that things had to move in this direction, but as a family, we also recognize that we have to look out for the best interests of the whole.”