Charlotte City Council

(Update, Feb. 13, 2012, 3:25 p.m.: As Charlotte remains silent on matters of LGBT equality, the New Jersey Senate pushes forward with a marriage equality bill and Washington state becomes the seventh to legalize equality in marriage for LGBT couples. Queen City, take note: The future is coming fast, and you’re being left in the dust.)

My post on Friday recounting the exchange between Charlotte City Councilmember LaWana Mayfield, a Q&A panel audience member and me and Mayfield’s insistence that Charlotte “has never taken a stance on anything that comes out of Raleigh” caught the ire of a couple of my readers.

In particular, “Hunter” cut right to the chase (certainly, in a more forceful way than I would have):

Mayfield’s statement is utter bullshit.

The Charlotte City Council takes positions on state legislative matters all the time. Cities have legislative agendas, and Charlotte is no exception.

Shame on Mayfield for daring this speak such obvious lies.

Anyone with even a single iota of knowledge on how local government works knows that city councils and other local governing bodies (e.g. county commissions, transportation commissions, etc.) take public positions on state and federal matters on a regular basis. That usually happens yearly when, as Hunter points out, local governments adopt their state and federal legislative agendas.

The City of Charlotte is no exception. The council’s Governmental Affairs Committee meets regularly in order to discuss, debate and propose the city’s annual state and federal legislative agenda. They even publish a calendar outlining the timing of their deliberations and subsequent approval by city staff and city council.

The city’s 2012 state legislative agenda has yet to be finalized and I couldn’t find a copy of its proposed contents on the city’s and county’s website. I did, however, find the proposed 2011 state legislative agenda, complete with a full 22 pages of in-depth public policy position statements on items ranging from public safety and criminal justice to infrastructure, taxing and budgeting needs.

Perhaps I should have posted more about this on Friday; I just figured the existence of legislative agendas was a no-brainer. Hunter’s comment reminded me, perhaps, that’s not true, despite the fact that so many current council members and candidates certainly knew what a legislative agenda was during campaign season.

Mayfield

Back at the old day job, we spearheaded an initiative to get council candidates on-the-record responses to four issues of importance to local LGBT citizens and residents.

The fourth question in our candidate questionnaire asked:

Would you support the adoption by city council of a legislative agenda that includes items to (a) seek legislative approval to extend public accommodations and public housing ordinances to include both sexual orientation and gender identity, (b) oppose the state’s 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, a statute which bans recognition of same-sex marriages, and (c) oppose any attempt to pass a state constitutional amendment that would ban recognition of same-sex marriages, civil unions, domestic partnerships and other legal arrangements?

Mayfield’s answer at the time:

Yes I would support A, B and C. I believe that by building relationships and commitments among the Council members we can ensure enough support to sustain a yes vote.

That doesn’t square so easily with Mayfield’s response at the Thursday evening panel, when she argued, “Charlotte City Council has never taken a stance on anything that comes out of Raleigh.”

Mayfield also said (emphasis added):

As far as taking a stance on anything that comes out of Raleigh, it has never been the policy of the Charlotte City Council to make a statement one way or another. We really focus on what’s happening in the City of Charlotte. We do not step outside of our realm too often. If it’s going to benefit the city, that’s our focus.

And, that bears a more in-depth response than the one I offered on Thursday evening, when I said, “It might have been something that came out of Raleigh, but it is something that will affect Charlotte. It will affect all the LGBT people who live in Charlotte — people who are represented by the people on city council and who will be affected by the amendment.”

A few of many ways the amendment impacts Charlotte and why it is a question of concern for the city and, therefore, deserves attention from our city council:

  • The amendment would bar the extension of health and other benefits to the same-sex partners of city employees. The city doesn’t currently offer these benefits, but, as mentioned by Mayfield, the issue is currently being discussed and considered by council members and city staff. If the city truly desires to one day offer these benefits to LGBT employees’ families, then taking a position on the amendment and its ban on domestic partner benefits is a question of concern for the city and, therefore, deserves attention from our city council.
  • The amendment could mean the end of domestic violence protection for individuals, both gay and straight, in unmarried relationships. The city-county’s joint police department would have to explore new ways to combat and control domestic violence between unmarried partners. How would the police department ensure the safety of a person being battered and abused by an unmarried partner? How much authority would they have to remove the abuser from the household if law prohibits the recognition of their relationship? The city oversees and administers the police department, therefore it is a question of concern for the city and, therefore, deserves attention from our city council.
  • The amendment could invalidate joint child-custody and visitation arrangements between unmarried couples. Though the county primarily oversees the social services and children’s welfare programs here, if the city has any stake at all in the preservation of healthy homes and families, then this is a question of concern for the city and, therefore, deserves attention from our city council.
  • Studies have found that LGBT people in states with anti-LGBT constitutional amendments face increased mental health problems. According to anti-amendment organizers, one such study found that LGBT people reported increases in mood disorder (36.6% increase), generalized anxiety disorder (248.2% increase), alcohol use disorder (41.9% increase), and psychiatric comorbidity (36.3% increase). Again, the county primarily provides health services to the public, but if the city has any stake in protecting, preserving and promoting a healthy population and workforce, then this is a question of concern for the city and, therefore, deserves attention from our city council.
  • The amendment could result in a chilling effect in businesses currently located in North Carolina and those thinking of moving here. North Carolina is home to 15 Fortune 500 companies. The five largest — Charlotte’s Bank of America, Lowe’s and Duke Energy, and Winston-Salem’s Reynolds American and BB&T — each offer protections to LGB  employees. With the exception of Lowe’s and Duke Energy, all offer protections to transgender workings. And, four — Bank of America, Duke Energy, Reynolds American and BB&T — each offer domestic partner benefits in addition to some some 50 other private companies across the state. Research of the “creative class” by Richard Florida has found that more and more workers within “creative” professional fields highly value respect, tolerance, inclusion and diversity. Such values are respected even among straight workers, who seek to know that a diversity of viewpoints, life experiences and people will be honored at their workplaces. According to anti-amendment organizers, the creative class workers were more than 2.5 times more likely to move to Massachusetts in the three years following marriage equality there than in the three years prior. What kind of message will this amendment send to current and potential employees and businesses in North Carolina? Will the amendment cause some citizens, along with their tax income and personal economic activity, to flee the state? Will some employees of major companies like Bank of America request to be moved to the company’s already-large presence in places like Boston or New York City (where marriage equality is recognized)? Will young entrepreneurs — the backbone of our small business economy — find it harder to recruit and retain highly-skilled and highly-valuable employees? Will companies themselves — those like Bank of America — find it easier to do business in less hostile places? According to the city council’s own 2012 Strategic Focus Area Plan for Economic Development, Charlotte seeks to “be the most prosperous and livable city for all citizens through quality economic development.” If the amendment holds any potential harm for economic development and growth, then this is a question of concern for the city and, therefore, deserves attention from our city council.

So, above and beyond the fact that it is utterly false to say that Charlotte “has never taken a stance on anything that comes out of Raleigh,” it is also false to say that Charlotte, inherently, has no interest in the potential approval on May 8 of this anti-LGBT, anti-family, anti-personal freedom and anti-business constitutional amendment. The interest is wide and varied, far beyond the simple impact on the personal lives of LGBT Charlotteans. The amendment could affect local government and its employees, local law enforcement, the health and well-being of local families and children and the economic well-being of our entire city, region and state.

This amendment is, without a doubt, a major question of concern for this city and its people and, therefore, deserves attention from our city council. Like Raleigh, Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Durham and Greensboro, the Charlotte City Council should consider and pass a resolution opposing the amendment and its potential harms to our fair city and this great state.

I encourage you to click over to the previous post on this subject, scroll to the bottom and find the contact information for Charlotte City Council. Send them an email or call them, asking them to take up a resolution opposing this amendment.

LaWana Mayfield

He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it. — Martin Luther King, Jr.

Charlotte City Councilwoman LaWana Mayfield (D-District 3) said the council will not consider a resolution opposing North Carolina’s anti-LGBT amendment, in response to an audience member’s question posed during a film screening and panel discussion hosted by Campus Pride on Thursday night at Petra’s, an LGBT-friendly bar in Plaza-Midwood.

[Disclosure: I am the communications and programs director for Campus Pride. The following post is made as a voting citizen and resident of Charlotte and does not reflect the official views or positions of Campus Pride.]

Other cities and towns in the state — including Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and Carrboro — have already passed resolutions opposing the amendment; some did so before the amendment gained legislative approval last September. In the fall, Mecklenburg County Commissioner and then-Chairman Jennifer Roberts joined city and county leaders across the state in a joint letter opposing the amendment.

This week, the Greensboro City Council passed such a statement 7-1, the sole dissenting vote being a far-right Republican. Even Greensboro’s Republican Mayor Robbie Perkins came out in opposition to the amendment.

Yet, Charlotte’s mayor and other city council leaders have yet to take an official, outspoken and forceful position on the amendment.

The somewhat edited exchange between the audience member, Mayfield and me, below:

Audience member: LaWana, what is the city council going to do about Amendment One? Are they going to debate. Are they going to pass a resolution to oppose it? Have you spoken to anyone about this?

LaWana Mayfield: Yes, we have had conversations about it. No, the city council is not going to take a stance on it one way or another, and the reason is, historically, Charlotte City Council has never taken a stance on anything that comes out of Raleigh. That’s just, historically, where the city council has never taken a stance one way or another when it comes to whatever piece of legislation may come out of Raleigh; they’ve never taken a stance on it. Yes, we are having conversations right now and as council we have been meeting with members of the community regarding a study of domestic partner benefits for the city since it was extended to county employees; that was done two years ago. As far as taking a stance on anything that comes out of Raleigh, it has never been the policy of the Charlotte City Council to make a statement one way or another. We really focus on what’s happening in the City of Charlotte. We do not step outside of our realm too often. If it’s going to benefit the city, that’s our focus. But, we are having conversations with folks to find out what the staff and what the community is asking for and we’re taking that to heart when we’re having our conversations and sending it to staff to get the balance on whether we are ready to move forward with this, what is going to be, if any, the financial implications, can we afford, is there something we can make accessible to all employees and what it’s going to look like. It has not been presented to council as a body yet. It is still in committee. Once it comes out of committee, then it will be presented to council.

Matt Comer: I personally implore you here publicly to talk to your colleagues more about coming out against the amendment. Greensboro, this week, came out to oppose the amendment. It might have been something that came out of Raleigh, but it is something that will affect Charlotte. It will affect all the LGBT people who live in Charlotte — people who are represented by the people on city council and who will be affected by the amendment. I think the council should debate this issue.

LaWana Mayfield: This is what I’d suggest, and this is for everyone in this room take this back to your friends and families: When the community shows up, they do give us the authority as council representatives to fight whatever fight that is. When you email, when you call, when you show that there’s an interest, then it’s not just me as the gay member on council saying this is something I’m going to fight for gay rights. Then it is, as a member of council, I’m listening to my constituency, I’m listening to my community, and it’s not just me, its the rest of my council who is also having to listen to their constituencies because these are the residents in their districts…saying this is an issue of importance and we want you to take the time to truly address it. Then it becomes not just me, one person, saying this is something we need to work on. It becomes the community, and then speaking with my fellow council members I can say this is something we need to work on. As a community I need you to step up, because I need you to give me the ammunition that I need in order for me to… [inaudible].

The community has been speaking out about this issue. We’ve done so for a long time. Back in July 2009, Durham resident Joshua Weaver traveled to Charlotte to support citizens here in requesting the Charlotte City Council adopt a pro-equality resolution similar to one approved by Chapel Hill and Carrboro and later approved by Durham. As you might imagine, the request in Charlotte went nowhere.

Mayfield has asked that the community get involved and voice their opinions (yet again) to Charlotte City Council. I hope you’ll join me in speaking out publicly on this issue and in contacting the members of city council.

You can find out what city council district you live in via the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections’ website. When you find out, match up your information to the district representative list and contact information listed at the bottom of this post and send an email to your district representative, the mayor and at-large council members.

When you email or call your council members, be sure to mention how you feel about the amendment and the city council’s as-of-yet public vote to pass an LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination ordinance and domestic partner benefits.

A sample script:

Dear Councilmember [MEMBER NAME],

My name is [YOUR NAME], and I live at [YOUR ADDRESS]. I’m writing today to ask you to support passing a resolution opposing North Carolina’s proposed anti-LGBT state constitutional amendment. The amendment is the most draconian version of similar amendments passed elsewhere and will write discrimination into our constitution, affecting the rights of LGBT citizens and others. The amendment’s language is so broad and vague that it could impact both gay and straight unmarried couples’ rights and even domestic violence statutes. Please pass a resolution opposing this discriminatory measure.

I also ask that you consider taking up a public vote on the matter of discrimination in city government. Our city employees deserve to know that they will be judged by their work and character alone, not simply by who they are. Please stand up for our city employees and send a sign to other LGBT citizens that anti-LGBT discrimination is wrong.

Finally, I also ask that you consider passing domestic partner benefits for city employees and their same-sex partners. These benefits are already available to heterosexual couples. LGBT employees deserve to know that their families will be as well taken care of as their straight colleagues’ families. Healthy homes and stable families make our city stronger.

Thank you,

[YOUR NAME]
[YOUR ADDRESS]
[YOUR PHONE AND EMAIL ADDRESS]

Charlotte City Council members

Mayor Anthony Foxx (D)
mayor@charlottenc.gov
704-336-2241

Patrick D. Cannon, Mayor Pro-Tem, At-Large (D)
MayorProTemCannon@gmail.com
704-336-7400

Claire Green Fallon, At-Large (D)
cfallon@charlottenc.gov
704-336-6105

David L. Howard, At-Large (D)
info@davidhowardclt.com
704-336-4099

Beth Pickering, At-Large (D)
bpickering@charlottenc.gov
704-336-5285

Patsy Kinsey, District 1 (D)
pkinsey@charlottenc.gov
704-336-3432, 704-376-5367

James Mitchell Jr., District 2 (D)
JamesDistrict2@aol.com
704-394-3332

LaWana Mayfield, District 3 (D)
councilwomanmayfield@gmail.com
704-890-5449

Michael D. Barnes, District 4 (D)
barnesdistrict4@aol.com
704-509-6141

John Autry. District 5 (D)
jautry@charlottenc.gov
704-336-2777

Andy Dulin, District 6 (R)
adulin1@carolina.rr.com
704-968-8776

Warren Cooksey, District 7 (R)
warren@warrencooksey.com
704-347-0420

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…

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Anti-gay pol to step down in N.C.

North Carolina state Sen. David Hoyle (D-Gaston) announced Dec. 9 he’d step down at the end of his term in 2010. Hoyle, chairman of the Senate’s Finance Committee, had been considered the third most powerful member of the Senate’s leadership, after President Pro Tempore Marc Basnight and former Majority Leader Tony Rand.

One advocate thinks the senator’s consistent, conservative social views might have played a key role in the body’s slow progress on pro-equality issues.

Continue reading this post…

To those who doubt that Obama will be an ally to the LGBT community (at one time including myself), the new White House website’s (which I’m told was updated at 12:01 p.m.) section on Civil Rights includes an entirely special focus on “Support for the LGBT Community.”

See the screengrab and click to enlarge after the jump…

Continue reading this post…

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An Inside Look…DADT

dadtWow, it appears the submarine force is representing! I didn’t think the topic of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) would be discussed among submariners and boy am I surprised. Steven Hall, a former submarine commanding officer, came out and is working on a film about DADT.

On the blog “The Stupid Shall Be Punished” Joel Kennedy, former submarine officer, discusses Gays In The Military and says that he is torn on the issue. I can understand why he is, but I am not. I served 10 years in the military on three different submarines and I believe that it can and will work.

Let’s discuss the current situation and see how it is working now.

I served under DADT and as a gay sailor and struggled a bit. Why? It was not because my hormones were continuously raging and I was after my heterosexual comrades. In fact, it was just the opposite. I could not disclose the events surrounding times spent with a other, things as simple as chatting on the phone or going to dinner. I could never let them really know me and that meant I had to keep them at a distance concerning the most intimate part of my life; the person I loved. While they talked about their girlfriends and wives, I could only shake my head in agreement and pretend that I would one day get married to a women. BLAH!

Continue reading this post…

The Christian Action League of North Carolina‘s executive director, Mark Creech, a regular criticizee of my blogging here at InterstateQ.com, is making much ado about nothing.

He’s trotted out a scare tactic for local churches, urging them to “protect themselves” from legal challenges of gay activists. What’s so unfortunate is that he considers long-time, much loved church members a threat:

A church refuses to consider a homosexual man for an advertised job as organist. The daughter of the head deacon and a member of the church since childhood demands to use the sanctuary for her lesbian commitment ceremony, but the church says no. These are just two of a myriad of situations that could lead to drawn out legal battles unless church leaders take precautions.

“I’ve thought for some time that the Christian Action League should provide some information concerning what churches needed to do to protect themselves from gay activism,” Creech says in the latest article posted at the group’s website. “It is important that they make sure they are prepared for such a threat and that they have what they need in place to protect themselves legally, especially as the political climate becomes more hostile to organizations of faith.”

Continue reading this post…

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No day off of work for me

Greg Hambrick, who covers the gay beat at the Charleston City Paper, says:

My partner suggested a few weeks ago that we take off Dec. 10, but I’m pretty sure I’m coming to work. The reason is that my coworkers, the people who know me and know my husband, aren’t the ones who could use a lesson about what it’s like not to have me around the office.

It’s about as fruitless (pun intended) as marching at the gay bar for the gay pride parade — it’s the people who don’t see us everyday who need the educating.

I’m right there with him. Someone will have to be at work to gather info on any protests. And, like Hambrick, staying away from work at a gay business really won’t accomplish a thing.

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Biden would vote ‘yes’ on ENDA split

In response to a question asked during his brief visit with the Pennsyvania delegation to the Democratic Convention, Vice Presidential nominee Joe Biden said that he would vote “yes” if he had to break a tie on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) while serving as President of the Senate.

In 1996, ENDA was voted on and lost by one vote. It was the first time it was voted on and the last.

It’s too bad no one thought to ask him his position on an inclusive or exclusive ENDA.

Chris Crain has more on Biden and his record.

Check out Q-Notes.com for Segal’s interview with out Colorado Congressional candidate Jared Polis.

– Mark Segal, of the Gay History Project, contributed