Bill James

A Charlotte conservative is telling anti-gay Republican Mecklenburg County Commissioner Bill James it is time for him to go and for voters to support his Republican primary challenger, Ed Driggs.

Lewis Guignard writes at Pundit House, a conservative Charlotte news and commentary site, that James’ reckless focus on socially conservative issues has damaged James’ supposed focus on fiscally-conservative issues, as well as damaging the local Republican Party.

Guignard says:

In fact, one of the reasons for the demise of many fiscal conservatives on the board of commissioners in the late 1990′s were the social conservative issues that James brought to the fore. From this decline, the Republican Party in Mecklenburg County has never recovered and as long as people such as Bill James are in office it never will. In fact, one of the major problems of the Republican Party today is the catering to social conservatives. If there were no other reason, that alone would be an excellent one for Republicans to vote for Ed Driggs. But there are other reasons, some of which have already been delineated by Driggs on the campaign trail.

Guignard focuses a great deal of his commentary on James’ votes and stances on fiscal matters. It’s a shame Guignard didn’t spend a bit more time zeroing in on James’ horrendous record of bigotry and division, among them:

Obviously, the list above isn’t exhaustive. Certainly, it’s not even the tip of James’ bigoted iceberg. He’s been engaging in character assassination against entire communities of people — and not just LGBT folks — for decades, beginning in the mid-1990s with Charlotte’s “Angels in America” and arts-funding controversy (more background…).

Obviously, the “Big Tent” that is the Grand Old Party isn’t. People like James prevent that. People who vote for people like James prevent that. Speaking of which… I wonder if all those mega-churches and good Christian folk in southeast Mecklenburg County really approve of all James’ harshly-worded and vulgar comments? They must… they keep supporting him.

 

Info from “Sex in the Park? Investigative Commentary: Police records debunk the media-driven myth of gay sex in public parks” in QNotes’ April 2, 2011 print edition.

Permission is granted to reproduce with the accompanying credit:

Infographic Copyright © 2011 Matt Comer (interstateq.com/archives/4671/)
Data compiled by Matt Comer/QNotes, "Sex in the Park?", April 2, 2011 (goqnotes.com/10621)
Data provided by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department

Interesting data points,courtesy UCLA’s Williams Institute, for a story I’m working on, set for publication in QNotes‘ Feb. 5 print edition…

Ranking of metropolitan areas with population above one million by the percent of same-sex couples who are raising children under age 18, American Community Survey (2005-2009).

Rank Metropolitan Area % of Same-sex couples raising children under age 18 Same-sex couples raising children Same-sex couples not raising children Total Same-sex couples
3 Raleigh-Cary, NC 29.5% 571 1,365 1,936
36 Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill, NC-SC 18.9% 840 3,613 4,453

An important side note: It’s important to remember that data sets like these do not accurately reflect the entire LGBT population. In this case, the numbers are a reflection of same-sex couples and excludes single LGBT people. Further, the American Community Survey and U.S. Census do not count total numbers of LGBT citizens or residents. It’s a shame really, since all we have to go by regarding total LGBT population in this country are numbers like these and other data sets extrapolated by groups like the Williams Institute (by far, the best and most in-depth). Some studies, like Indiana University’s National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, found 7 percent of women and 8 percent of men identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual (of 6,000 people nationwide between the ages of 14 and 94). That study also found that by age 60, 15 percent of men have had at least one oral, same-sex sexual encounter.

Some jobs aren’t fabulous. Many don’t get praise or recognition. Folks who work in these jobs are often given nary a passing thought by most people whose lives would be dramatically different if not for the services these workers provide.

There’s lots of examples. The garbage man (and woman) is one. Honestly, how many people think about the people who collect your trash on a weekly basis — the shit (figuratively and literally) they have to deal with as they weave their mammoth trucks through small neighborhood side streets picking up your untouchables?

Another example might be those who work for your municipality’s sewage and water treatment system or those who work for portable toilet services. That hot dog you ate at the county fair was mighty tasty, but you drop it off at the portable toilet and you’re on your way happily ever after. Tell me, have you ever paused to think what a Porta-John employee’s work day is like, cleaning up after your bodily waste? I doubt most people have.

Unfortunately, journalists get a similar type of treatment. Though journalists are far from ignored — because they’re regular targets of public disdain and contempt — they do live in a world where their jobs are largely underpaid, under-appreciated and under-utilized (especially as traditional, print news-media companies continue to languish in a lack of innovation under the ever-continuing move to online news and entertainment).

Ultimately, public disdain for journalism emanates, I believe, from a collective, public ignorance that neither understands nor really much cares about the types of real, meaningful and important services journalists actually provide their local communities, states and nation.

Such is the case with a recent example from The Charlotte Observer. Continue reading this post…

A local Charlotte blogger who writes at Cedar Posts and Barbwire Fences on local news and activities relating to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department has been keeping up with the news of six chaplains’ resignations. He asserts the resignations have more to do with internal CMPD doings than the the lesbian pastor appointed to the chaplaincy. Perhaps that’s the case, but that’s certainly not what media is reporting and what CMPD brass say. (And, it should be noted, that the chaplains themselves first mentioend the lesbian pastor’s sexual orientation as a reason for their objections.)

After a week or more of writing onthe topic, Cedar added this bit of commentary:

Cedar’s View – I don’t have an argument against Gay people. I know a few men who are openly “Out” gay and while I consider them friends, they live odd drama filed lives. Nothing is easy for them, every set back is a travesty. While they would like to be accepted as who they are, they go to extremes to say who they aren’t.

Do I understand being Gay? No, I just can’t see looking as some guy’s hairy ass and thinking to myself “yum yum”. As far as lesbians, now that I get! As long as they are both hot. Which they never are. And for the transgender crowd, other than the Bird Cage with Robin Williams it is not funny or entertaining its sad. Chaz Bono still looks like a freak.

On the other hand, I have a gay friend of nearly 20 years. A couple of years ago his life long partner died after a long illness. And I have to admit there was no doubt that relationship was based on the strong and deep love they shared.

I’m so wonderfully happy and relieved to know Cedar doesn’t “have an argument against Gay people.” Actually. I’m being quite serious. No kidding. I’d assumed Cedar was like the majority of naysayers I see in and around Charlotte’s blogging and media landscape: racist, homophobic and conservative as hell (that’s not opinion, that’s not stereotype; it’s fact). But, alas, I was wrong. In this case, I’m glad to be proven wrong.

Cedar’s “view” isn’t homophobic or anti-gay, per se, but it is skewed and off-base.

Imagine any person saying, “I know a few Jews, and they are all greedy,” or “I know a few Indians, and they all have dots on their heads and smell.” That kind of logic doesn’t fly. Knowing “a few” of any kind of people doesn’t give you the full picture of an entire population. That’s how stereotypes get started. From there, prejudices develop. Combined, stereotypes and prejudices make discrimination (legal, civil and otherwise) possible.

I like Cedar’s blog. I like hearing him out and reading his opinions, even though I might not agree with many of them. I hope Cedar takes the time to get to know more LGBT people, for his own sake. Having that personal experience will make his blogging and opinion-making stronger. In fact, while I’m thinking about it, I might just ask him how to lunch.

You know, gay folks really are quite nice. We’re fun, mostly easy-going and have a great and unique perspective on life and society. And, by the way, I’d say our drama isn’t necessarily all that much better or worse than straight folks; it’s just different.

As to Cedar’s assertion, “Nothing is easy for them, every set back is a travesty,” it’s unfortunate that oftentimes his friends’ scenarios are true. Try living in a world, Cedar, where you grow up with all corners of society telling you are sick and sinful, condemned for eternity and that your life is valueless. Let’s see how easy of world that is for you to inhabit.

This week’s furor over a lesbian pastor’s appointment to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) volunteer chaplaincy force hopefully paints for us a clear picture of where Charlotte might be heading in its continued journey toward full inclusion and equality for LGBT citizens and residents.

In the past, I’ve been quite the critic of Charlotte’s and Mecklenburg County’s political and city leaders. (To be fair, I’ve also been very critical of our own community’s lack of leadership.)

I’ve found many of our political and LGBT leaders more than willing to “promise” or “commit” to LGBT inclusion, equality and advocacy, and far too many of the same unwilling to take clear, principled and courageous stands on those commitments. Empty words and broken promises do not equate to “political courage,” my friends.

In October, however, CMPD Chief Rodney Monroe made clear, in a very public way, his commitment to furthering inclusion and equality within his police force. At an open forum at the Lesbian & Gay Community Center of Charlotte, Monroe sought collaboration, communication and dialogue. Monroe’s mere appearance at the event was a step forward, the first time any CMPD police chief had publicly addressed the LGBT community.

This week, Monroe made good on his commitment: He stood strong and spoke up for respect in the face of resignations from six, veteran CMPD chaplains offended by the appointment of a lesbian pastor to the volunteer chaplain force.

Monroe wrote to the chaplains (PDF):

As valued members of this Department, I’m sure you can understand my disappointment when I received letters of resignation from some members of the Chaplaincy program — some who have served CMPD for many years and were instrumental in its inception. While I understand that personal beliefs do not always align with business practices, I have always believed that we can respect our differences and beliefs in order to work together in our common goal of bettering this organization and the community we serve. This is especially important in acknowledging our greater role as a local government agency that adheres to the constitutional principle of “the separation of church and state.”

As we look around our Department, and even within our Chaplaincy program, we see people of many different backgrounds, beliefs and opinions. I respect the decisions and convictions of those who have decided to resign, as I would never ask anyone to compromise their beliefs. But I do hope that those of us who remain, continue our dedication to this Department and continue to embrace our goal of being an inclusive organization that respects the differences of all of our employees.

Monroe has proven he can be a principled, courageous leader in the face of hate, bigotry and anti-LGBT prejudice. Our city and county leaders should follow his example. LGBT community leaders should, too.

Charlotte is changing, albeit very slowly, due in part to Monroe’s ability to do his job: To serve and to protect all the citizens and residents of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, regardless of race, religion, color, creed, sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender-identity and any host or litany of real or perceived differences you can imagine.

For that, Monroe deserves thanks and praise from our community. In addition, he deserves our loyalty and our defense when local anti-LGBT and racist activists come knocking on his door demanding his resignation or termination (such has happened before, and will surely happen again).

Monroe is a true ally to this community and all citizens of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. He is, perhaps, among the truest we have among the very small group of local leaders regularly standing up for values of respect, tolerance, inclusion and equality.

I tip my hat to Chief Monroe and thank him for a job well done.

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…

0

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…

0

Did that week really just fly by?

What happened to last week? A full five work days felt more like two. And, I was doing so well on posting here at the old personal pad again. Can’t control the news cycle, or the news makers, it seems.

Last week kept me busy at the day job, reporting on Mecklenburg County’s decision to extend health and leave benefits to same-sex partners of county employees. Then, I was kept busy still reporting on the antics of Republican Commissioner Bill James. All of this on top of our usual production week for the Dec. 26 print issue.

Christmas is almost here and New Year’s is just around the corner. I’m excited to get Q-Notes‘ last print issue of the year out on the news stands this week. Click over to Q-Notes and sign up for our email newsletter to get a preview of our year-end wrap up. We’ll announce our Person of the Year and Person of the Decade in the issue, too!

The Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners will consider a proposal at a private retreat today and tomorrow, looking to study the issue of offering domestic partner benefits to county employees.

Any move by the Commission in the next couple days won’t institute benefits, but rather instruct county employees to study the possibility.

Still, outspoken, conservative Commissioner Bill James (R) says the Commission shouldn’t even be discussing the issue. He says it is illegal to offer these benefits, in part because LGBT people are criminals (he cites North Carolina’s “sodomy statute,” or Crimes Against Nature statute).

In an email to constituents and the media on Monday, James used an anti-transgender slur to refer to transgender people and accused bisexuals of being promiscuous and living in threeway relationships.

The Charlotte Observer reports that straight-ally Commission Chair Jennifer Roberts is pushing the issue:

But Roberts said the issue is about offering a benefits package that is fair and competitive. “I think (extending the benefits) shows that you’re keeping up with what’s going on in the marketplace,” Roberts said. “It shows that you are moving forward and that you’re trying to treat employees with fairness.”

Statement from the Mecklenburg Gay and Lesbian Political Action Committee (MeckPAC):

Mecklenburg Gay & Lesbian Political Action Committee (MeckPAC) is pleased that the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners has begun researching the issue of domestic partner benefits for the county’s employees. MeckPAC will ensure that County Commissioners have the most accurate resources available to help guide their decision-making on this important issue. Mecklenburg County lags far behind many businesses and other similar-sized municipal governments who have long ago enacted policies that provide such benefits. Top-notch recruitment/retention of county employees, as well as the strong message it sends that Charlotte is an inclusive and welcoming place to live and work, are major reasons why providing employee benefits equitably is so vitally important.

Update: So I posted so quickly this morning my blurb about a local media group was wrong. Oops. Sorry.

No Carolinas media outlet, save Q-Notes, has called James out on his use of slurs or prejudicial stereotypes.

The Observer has an online poll up… Should the County extend benefits to domestic partners. As of Thursday morning, “NO” was clearly in the lead. Visit The Observer‘s site to vote.