CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Proposals that would add protections for the LGBT community, among others, to four city non-discrimination ordinances have split residents and advocates in Charlotte, as last-minute lobbying floods elected officials’ email inboxes, opponents launch radio ads and robocalls and local mainstream media pick up their coverage on the issue.

The Charlotte Observer reports that a total of 39,000 emails have been received by Charlotte City Council members. This week, First Baptist Church Pastor Mark Harris’ Faith Matters NC launched radio ads on radio station WBT. The NC Family Policy Council has also been running robocalls to area residents.

Transgender rights and attacks on transgender people have taken front and center in opponents’ messaging, latching on to what LGBT advocates call “scare tactics,” linking transgender people to sexual predators and claiming the updated non-discrimination ordinances would give a pass to predators who seek access to restrooms.

Advocates for the change say they’re disappointed in the level of attacks and say more education and awareness is needed on transgender people.

“The opposition definitely got the jump on us, as it regards robocalls and ads and hitting the ground running with a grassroots campaign,” said Paige Dula, founder of the transgender support group Genderlines and a leader with the Charlotte Non-Discrimination Ordinance Coalition, comprised of several groups advocating for the proposed non-discrimination laws.

“Definitely on education, we dropped the ball on the whole bathroom issue,” Dula added. “There was not enough education out in front of the problem.”

Dula is still confident City Council has the votes to pass the proposed measures, but she’s already looking toward increased education efforts to build awareness of and support for transgender people and their stories.

“There needs to be more broad public education about trans people and who we are are, so that the general public can learn we are just normal people,” she said. “We’re not predators. We’re not strange creatures. We’re just normal people.”

The proposals will be heard on Monday, March 2, at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center, 600 E. Fourth St. Advocates are encouraging supporters to arrive early, at 4 p.m. Click here to learn more or RSVP to attend.

We’ve got a round up below of local news coverage, lobbying efforts and more.

Observer: Proposals split faith leaders

Proposed changes to Charlotte’s nondiscrimination ordinance appear headed to a close vote Monday night by City Council members deluged with phone calls and a staggering 39,000 emails. The proposals have sparked a firestorm, with groups of clergy on both sides sending open letters to the council and at least 75 people signing up to speak at the council meeting.

Read more from The Charlotte Observer….

Faith leaders issue letters

Faith leaders on both sides of the issue have issued letters to Council.

The letter from those opposed is signed by close to 100 faith leaders, anti-LGBT activists and business owners. High-profile signatories include: First Baptist Pastor Mark Harris;Tami Fitzgerald, director of the NC Values Coalition; Richard Land, president of Matthews’ Southern Evangelical Seminary and formerly president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s public policy group Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission; Concord anti-LGBT activist and theologian Dr. Michael Brown; David and Jason Benham, twin sons of anti-LGBT street preacher Flip Benham; Christian apologist and activist Frank Turek; Pat Baldridge, CEO, Charlotte Christian Chamber; Mel Graham, CEO of Graham Enterprises and board member for both the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Graham’s son Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse; Warren Smith, associate publisher of World Magazine; and Mark Creech, director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina.

The letter from those in favor of the ordinances include 40 LGBT-affirming clergy including: Chris Ayers, Wedgewood Church; John Cleghorn, Caldwell Presbyterian Church; Nancy Ellett Allison, Holy Covenant United Church of Christ; Dennis Foust, St. John’s baptist Church; Janathan Freirich, Temple Beth El, Catherine Houchins, Metropolitan Community Church of Charlotte; Nancy Kraft, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Sonja Lee, Unity Fellowship Church of Charlotte; Tonyia Rawls, Sacred Souls Community Church; Robin Tanner, Piedmont Unitarian Universalist Church; and Jay Leach, Unitarian Universalist Church of Charlotte

WCCB: Some Council members unsure on vote

See WCCB’s Feb. 27 story here. Video below.

NBC Charlotte: ‘Intense atmosphere’

NBC Charlotte reported on the story on Feb. 27. The station quotes Republican Councilmember Ed Driggs saying he alone has gotten 4,500 emails on the ordinances. Driggs also says: “The ordinance basically puts the preference of a small number of people ahead of the preferences of a lot of people.” 

WBTV: A matter of safety

WBTV also reported on the ordinance Feb. 27. They spoke to a transgender young person in Charlotte, Shaina, who said: “There’s been times that I’ve walked into a bathroom and someone says drop your pants and prove it. you know what, no. I’m not going to prove it because my identity is my identity. … I’m literally just asking for the freedom and safety to go to the bathroom, without being harassed.”

WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

TWC News: Layer of protection

TWC News spoke to opponents and proponents, with Charlotte Business Guild President Chad Sevearance saying the matter was one of safety and protection: “I think trangender people are already using the bathroom they’re most comfortable with. And this is just adding a layer of protection, should we get to the point… where we are discriminating against them. They have no recourse at the moment,” he said. Click here to view that story.

Right Wing Watch: Benhams call ordinance ‘so depraved,’ ‘absolutely craziness’

Jason and David Benham, twin sons of anti-LGBT street preacher Flip Benham, discussed Charlotte’s proposed ordinance on a radio show with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. Perkins’ group is a D.C.-based hate group for which NC Values Coalition director Tami Fitzgerald previously worked as a lobbyist with the group’s state affiliate, the NC Family Policy Council.

“We are about to fight in Charlotte this transgender bathroom ordinance,” David Benham said according to Right Wing Watch. “It’s so depraved and just absolutely craziness that I look back and I see that pattern.”

“It’s taken the form of nondiscrimination,” he continued. “That’s just simply the fourth point of the radical gay agenda’s plan to change America. The fourth point is ‘do not request direct support for our lifestyle, but rather assume nondiscrimination as our support.’ This is a disguise. And it’s not because of LGBT people, it’s because of this radical agenda.”

Hear the audio and read more at Right Wing Watch…

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.