Two Democrats and two Republicans on Charlotte City Council remained stalwartly opposed to advancing LGBT equality during the past few months’ worth of debate over proposed non-discrimination ordinances.
In November, they each expressed concerns. In early February, they each voted against placing the proposed ordinances on the agenda. And on March 2, they raised their hands in opposition to a final, amended version. The amended, “compromise” version has attracted disagreement among some LGBT community members, but there’s no doubt that these four Council people stood opposed to LGBT inclusion no matter the ordinances’ wording or language. Two other Council members seemed to offer either full or partial support and later voted for the compromise package.
Democrat, Mayor Pro Tem, At-Large
First elected: 2003
From the beginning of the ordinance considerations, Barnes voiced concerns over transgender people and their use of bathrooms — citing his fears of how the change in policy would effect his children. It was a refrain he used repeatedly in preliminary meetings in and to media through to the March 2 meeting. Despite having allegedly told another Council member he’d vote for a compromise package stripping out restrooms, Barnes instead voted against on March 2. Barnes has long been unfriendly to LGBT people and causes. He’s never been endorsed by the Mecklenburg LGBT Political Action Committee.
Democrat, District 4
First elected: 2013
Greg Phipps also voiced reservations about the plan to add LGBT people to the city’s already-existing non-discrimination ordinances. One of Phipps’ main sticking points was a lack of documented evidence of discrimination against LGBT people, something city staff told him they aren’t able to track since local ordinances do not empower them to do so. Phipps also criticized the process, saying the city needed more time to discuss the issue. Phipps was not endorsed by MeckPAC.
Republican, District 6
First elected: 2013
Kenny Smith was, perhaps, the most outspoken opponent of the LGBT-inclusive ordinances, though, in November, he seemed more perplexed than opposed and, like Barnes, cited concerns over his own young children. Smith found it difficult to wrap his head around issues of gender and gender identity and complained about the process, saying he hadn’t heard of the effort — in works with some Council members since July 2014 — until the city’s first Council briefing in November. On March 3, Smith let the rhetoric fly, calling the non-discrimination effort a “radical left agenda” and an effort to impose the “political whims of the minority on the majority.” Smith did not receive an endorsement from MeckPAC.
Republican, District 7
First elected: 2013
Like Smith and Barnes, Driggs spent a great deal of time concerned with the safety of children and women, despite having noted in November that he didn’t intend to “erect barriers” to the passage of the ordinances. In February, Driggs latched onto the bathroom predator myth, saying the proposed ordinances could open the door to “bad actors” who would abuse the law. On March 2, he again cited a “lower[-ing] of the bar” that would allow “creeps” to take advantage of children and women. He also pushed back against the idea that discrimination against LGBT people existed. Driggs did not receive an endorsement from MeckPAC.
The wild card:
First elected: 2011
Claire Fallon has proven to be the one member of Council the most difficult to pin down on this particular issue. She initially spoke out forcefully for full equality. At the end of February, she wavered, telling the Charlotte Observer the public needed more time to weigh in on the issue. And, at the March 2 meeting, she voted for the compromise package, saying she couldn’t vote to protect transgender people in restrooms. After the vote, she’s repeatedly claimed she never spoke out in favor of the full package and blamed LGBT advocates for the failure. Fallon was a MeckPAC endorsee in 2011 and 2013. qnotes endorsed her in 2011. There are rumors that Fallon’s slip caused the full package to fail; read our full story on page 8 for more.
The concerned one:
First elected: 2009
David Howard consistently expressed concerns over the non-discrimination ordinances’ effects on bathrooms. Similar to Barnes and Smith, Howard cited his fears for his own children. But, Howard also remained seemingly compassionate to both sides of the debate. Repeatedly, Howard told media and the public that he was weighing both sides and found it a tough vote. He also repeatedly tried to find work-arounds and compromises that could get some provisions advanced while addressing concerns over restrooms. On March 2, he voted for the compromise package. Howard has received several endorsements from MeckPAC and was endorsed by qnotes in 2011.