Some Thoughts from a Monday Night in Charlotte
What the City Council's non-discrimination vote told us about our city, and us
1. Despite Monday’s vote, the changes to the nondiscrimination ordinance will pass sooner or later, probably sooner. The reaction from some members of the LGBT community and their straight allies after the vote reminded me of the dismay that greeted the passage of Amendment 1, less than three years ago. Now look where we are.
2. The real battle is shaping up between cities’ anti-discrimination measures and states’ efforts to make such measures illegal.
3. Which means that, ultimately, the courts will have to decide whether business owners’ right not to serve people on religious grounds trumps LGBT people’s right to be treated like any other patrons. Frustrating, sure, but this is the victory-by-degrees way these things have always gone. Minds change, and it takes a while for the law to catch up.
4. Everyone sees themselves as the reasonable representatives of the majority. Everyone sees their opponents as “a small but vocal minority.”
5. Paradoxically, everyone also sees themselves as bullied victims of discrimination.
6. Apparently, a segment of the population believes public office of any kind is obtained by divine appointment. That seems like undue pressure to place on the members of, say, the Zoning Board.
7. One thing I find genuinely fascinating: How the public fight over LGBT protections and marriage rights has become a proxy war over the legacy of the civil rights movement in African-American churches.
8. At one pole was Councilman Al Austin, black and openly gay, who said from the dais that he thought of the non-discrimination changes as part of a “new civil rights revolution.” At the other were several black faith leaders who not only rejected the connection to the civil rights movement but were openly offended by it.
9. I can understand the basic opposition—Christians believing gay behavior is a sin—but what struck me was the vehemence, African-American Christians’ deep resentment over what they seem to see as gay people co-opting their moral authority on civil rights. There’s far more to this than politics, and I’d love to hear from people who have more insight on the subject.
10. A whole lot of parents are frightened to the point of hysteria that a stranger might sexually abuse or otherwise harm their children in a public restroom, which is understandable.
11. But those parents should also consider that 60 percent of child victims of sexual abuse know their abusers, and more than a quarter of cases occur in the victims’ homes. Only 14 percent of victims are sexually abused by strangers. (See p. 172 of the document.)
12. So, in other words, if you choose to be scared to death that someone is poised to sexually abuse your children, you have plenty more to worry about than just the transgender woman who wants to use the ladies’ room.
13. And speaking of the transgender woman who wanted to use the ladies’ room, refresh me on who’s supposed to be a threat to whom?
14. If nothing else, last night’s meeting showcased, for better or worse, something we like to boast about in Charlotte: diversity. That crowd was diverse, alright. Christian pastors defended the “religious freedom” of Muslims and sang ditties about gay livestock. A Catholic father of a transgender child, a straight grandfather, and a straight corporate attorney passionately urged the council to adopt the changes. We heard from the young, old, rich, poor, gay, straight, white, black, Latino, Asian, eloquent, incoherent, sane, deeply crazy. One by one, they all stepped to the lectern and spoke their minds, 117 of them, as entertaining, frustrating, infuriating, and moving a procession of voices as I’ve ever heard in that chamber.
15. It’s hard to imagine that broad an array of humanity represented in the seat of Charlotte city government 15 years ago. That’s another thing to remember, as some of those people celebrated Monday night and others fumed: That unruly creature, the public, is always changing.