Supporters deliver petitions to Charlotte city council in support of the non-discrimination ordinance to be voted on Monday by the Charlotte City Council. Behind them, carrying a Bible, is an opponent of the ordinance, Flip Benham. dhinshaw@charlotteobserver.com
Supporters deliver petitions to Charlotte city council in support of the non-discrimination ordinance to be voted on Monday by the Charlotte City Council. Behind them, carrying a Bible, is an opponent of the ordinance, Flip Benham. dhinshaw@charlotteobserver.com

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LGBT nondiscrimination ordinance supporters drop off petitions ahead of Monday vote

February 22, 2016 12:00 PM

UPDATED February 22, 2016 12:28 PM

With opponents outside shouting into a loudspeaker, supporters of a Charlotte ordinance that would provide new legal protections for gay, lesbian and transgender people dropped off boxes of petitions asking City Council to pass the measure Monday.

The group, a coalition that includes supporters such as Equality NC, the Human Rights Campaign, the LGBT Chamber of Commerce and an assortment of ministers, delivered the petitions to Charlotte offices on the 15th floor of the Government Center without incident.

Matt Hirschy, director of advancement for Equality NC, said the ordinance has won support from many in the private sector, where large companies often bar discrimination against employees because of gender or sexual orientation.

“They’re concerned,” Hirschy said, “and they want Charlotte to catch up.”

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City Council is set to vote Monday night on the measure after a lengthy meeting that starts at 6 p.m. and will feature over two hours of public comments. Last year, a version of the measure was defeated in a 6-5 vote. Mayor Jennifer Roberts asked council to consider the measure again, and with several new council members, passage is likely.

Opponents said Monday they expect City Council will approve the new nondiscrimination law – eight of the 11 council members have said they plan to vote for it – but said they would keep fighting. Gov. Pat McCrory said in an email this weekend that the state would likely move quickly to overturn the ordinance if it passes.

Once again, a provision that would allow people to use the bathroom of the gender they identify with has stirred the most opposition. Opponents say it would allow predators to target women and children in the restroom, while supporters say it would only offer legal protection to transgender people who might face violence if, for example, a man living as a woman was forced to use the men’s restroom.

“It’s absolutely critical people are protected in vulnerable places,” said Hirschy, who emphasized the ordinance would not in any way decriminalize sexual assault in restrooms. “What this does is add protections.”

Flip Benham, a conservative Christian minister who opposes the ordinance, predicted it will pass easily, with a 9-2 majority on council. But he predicted the victory would spark a backlash that would eventually result in a more conservative City Council winning election.

“We’re going to lose this vote tonight, but you’ve got to lose to win,” Benham said, standing outside the Government Center holding a sign reading “Don’t Make a Moral Wrong a Civic Right.”

“We’re in rebellion against God,” said Benham. “This battle isn’t about a bathroom ordinance. We’re fighting a battle that has been fought since the Garden of Eden.”

Ely Portillo: 704-358-5041, @ESPortillo