Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx appeared at the Human Rights Campaign Carolina Gala on Saturday evening, welcoming the nearly 1,400-person dinner to town with a speech that included his newly-minted public opposition to Amendment One, the anti-LGBT constitutional amendment on the primary ballot on May 8, 2012.
Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx personally welcomed those at the gala – a sign that things have changed since 2005, when then-Mayor Pat McCrory, a Republican, refused to issue a welcoming letter for the gala in Charlotte that year.
During his remarks Saturday, Foxx also spoke out against the proposed constitutional amendment reaffirming North Carolina’s ban – already in state law – of same-sex marriage.
Saying he’d heard from gay and lesbian city workers and police officers who could not take bereavement time or care for their partners, Foxx told the crowd that “when I go into the ballot box in May … I’m going to be voting against Amendment 1.”
He said he was concerned that passage of the amendment would scare away from Charlotte – site of the 2012 Democratic National Convention – those businesses that want to attract talented gay and lesbian employees.
“They … don’t want a ‘Not Wanted’ sign hung over their front (door),” Foxx said.
Foxx’s remarks are a welcome and appreciated transformation on his part. Finally, Charlotte’s mayor has spoken out against the amendment in a personal way. The Foxx of Saturday night has come a long way since the Foxx of last year, who could rarely bring himself to utter the words “gay” or “lesbian” in public and who, at an LGBT business seminar in September, found it difficult to strongly condemn the amendment and declined to comment on how he would vote personally.
As I’ve noted, Foxx’s speech Saturday is a step forward for the city’s top elected official, the result of many conversations, public and private, pushing him to do and say more in support of his LGBT supporters and constituents. I am thankful Foxx has now spoken out so publicly against the amendment. I hope he continues to do so and that he takes his message from the largely friendly crowd at the gala to the voting public. Preaching to the choir is great (sometimes the choir needs the encouragement), but speaking out in the not-so-friendly public is what will eventually help to change hearts and minds — and votes.
And, as ever, there remains so much more work to be done. The Charlotte City Council has yet to take up a public vote on an LGBT-inclusive employment non-discrimination ordinance or domestic partner benefits. If Mayor Foxx truly supports our community and if the stories of those LGBT city workers and police officers were truly as impactful as he claims, then I’m confident Mayor Foxx will publicly renew his desire to have the council move on LGBT equality issues, as he told QNotes in November 2009: “I’d like to see the City Council move on the non-discrimination issue very early in the next term and I’d like to see us do that in a bipartisan way. I know there are members of City Council within both parties who have expressed support for including sexual orientation in the non-discrimination ordinance. Given that, I’d like to see action on that very early.”
Pleasant words, accommodating speeches and pretty rainbow lights on Uptown skyscrapers are nice and we should be appreciative and thankful for all of them, but they can never be an acceptable replacement for or alternative to decisive action. It is time for this city and its elected leaders on council to take a firm, public stand against discrimination by casting their votes in favor of LGBT-inclusive ordinances.