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.

Anthony Foxx

From The Charlotte Observer:

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.

Sen. Kay Hagan at the 2009 HRC Carolina Gala in Charlotte.

U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) released a statement to mainstream and LGBT media and bloggers this week outlining her opposition to the state’s proposed anti-LGBT constitutional amendment.

From Hagan’s office:

In today’s hyperpartisan political environment, I view any attempt to alter our state constitution with a critical eye. Amendment One has far-reaching negative consequences for our families, our children and our communities. North Carolina is one of the most business-friendly states in the nation, and this amendment would harm our state’s ability to recruit the innovators and businesses that are driving our economic recovery. Jobs are my number one priority, and we cannot afford totake our eye off the ball and give businesses a reason to grow and expand elsewhere. The people I hear from everyday – the families that make up the fabric of the Old North State – tell me they are sick and tired of watching their jobs and their livelihoods fall victim to divisive partisan posturing. In North Carolina we say our state is “Where the weak grow strong and the strong grow great.” Amendment One harms our state’s resolve to make all people and all families great, and as a proud daughter of North Carolina, I urge all North Carolinians to join me in opposing it.

The statement comes as the Human Rights Campaign is set to hold its Carolina Gala in Charlotte on Saturday, Feb. 25.

Local leaders, too, have taken a stab at speaking out, saying they are “on board for equality” in a “Welcome to Charlotte” video released by HRC this week. The video includes Mayor Anthony Foxx, Mecklenburg County Commissioners Jennifer Roberts and Dumont Clarke, City Councilmembers Patsy Kinsey and LaWana Mayfield and state Rep. Becky Carney. There’s still no word on how “on board for equality” some local leaders are, and if such rhetoric extends to using their offices and votes to take a greater stand for equality (see my commentary last week in Creative Loafing, “Queen City? She’s no reigning monarch when it comes to LGBT equality”),

Today and Wednesday, the Democratic National Committee’s 2012 convention site selection committee will visit Charlotte. While here, they’ll take a look at several criteria: transportation, security, convention space, hotel capacity and more.

Charlotte leaders, including Mayor Anthony Foxx, have been working hard to woo the 2012 Democratic National Convention. Their website, Charlottein2012.com, outlines facts, figures and statistics on the Charlotte area, and they are working on compiling a resource list of all the great things to do and see in and around the Queen City.

The first “fact” in their Fact Sheet (PDF) states we are “an energetic, innovative, diverse city on the move,” yet this quick “fact” forgets about one key Democratic constituency that has often been ill-served and ignored by Charlotte’s Democratic leadership. Unfortunately, local and state leaders’ exhuberance over Charlotte’s possible hosting of the Democratic National Convention has overshadowed just how slow the area has been to making progressive change, particularly for LGBT citizens.

The Democratic National Convention stands to bring countless numbers of LGBT Americans to our city. It is an event for a political party whose ideals of equality and inclusion are rarely, if ever, taken to heart by our own local Democratic Party leaders.

At first glance, this lack of progress seems nothing but a negative stain on Charlotte but it doesn’t have to be. The Queen City has much more growing to do, and the Democratic National Convention’s presence here could help to highlight the many issues faced by our local LGBT community and push local leaders over whatever obstacles keep them from fully and publicly supporting LGBT people and citizens here.

So, here is my open letter to the DNC. I ask you to consider Charlotte carefully and provide a fair selection process to all potential host cities. But, in the end, I hope you do choose Charlotte.

Read on for an in-depth exploration of the state of LGBT Charlotte — both positive and negative — and how the convention could help our city move forward. Continue reading this post…

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Marching past the Queen City

On February 9, the Asheville City Council voted 4-2 to begin a study of the costs and implementation of domestic partner benefits for LGBT city employees and their partners. Their move last week is quite similar to Mecklenburg County Commissioners’ strategy when first looking into the same issue back in January 2009. After a year of research, Mecklenburg officials voted in December to extend domestic partner benefits.

Of course, Mecklenburg’s decision didn’t come without the obligatory controversy from resident board conservative, Bill James. His “homo” remarks to fellow Commissioner Vilma Leake spawned calls for some sort of disciplinary action. Regardless, the benefits succeeded and will be offered starting in 2011.

Continue reading this post…