The current ordinance protects against discrimination based on race, gender, religion, national origin, ethnicity, age and disability — but does not include marital status, familial status, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.
This is the second time the ordinance has been put to vote. It failed in a 6-5 vote in March 2015.
Julie Eiselt, a council representative and a Democrat, said people protested the amendment last March largely because of the “bathroom issue,” or the belief that the amendment would allow men to enter women’s bathroom and make it easier for them to assault women.
Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts brought the ordinance back for reconsideration, said UNC professor Rhonda Gibson.
“There’s been a lot more discussion since it failed,” she said. “People understand what it means, and (Roberts) thinks it should be reconsidered.”
Gibson said the cause of the amendment’s controversy is gender identity. It would provide safety for transgender people who do not feel safe using the bathroom of their preference.
“That calls into question the very nature of men’s and women’s bathrooms,” she said. “I think if we were starting bathrooms from scratch now, we would do individual bathrooms, so you would not have to declare a gender to use one.”
Claire Green Fallon, an at large council representative and a Democrat, said she doesn’t believe the vote will have much of an impact on the city, but she has seen a lot of anger in response.
“I’ve gotten more than a thousand emails against it,” she said. “People are worried about their children. People are worried about the mixing of people together — they don’t understand why it has to happen.”
But there has been a change in the board since the last vote, making the ordinance more likely to pass this time, Eiselt said. There is not as much opposition as in 2015, and any opposition is mostly coming from cities outside of Charlotte.
“They’re fearful that if Charlotte passes it, then other towns will be pressured to pass it,” Eiselt said. “We have cities all over the country that have these ordinances, and there’s never been any case of someone being assaulted in a bathroom by a transgender person or a man wearing a dress going in with the intent of hurting someone.”
She said the transgender population isn’t a very big one, but there is evidence some of them have been harassed and assaulted in bathrooms.
Brennan Lewis, a UNC first-year who uses the pronoun they, said they believe the passing of this ordinance will be an important step for the city’s LGBT community.
“Any kind of progress is progress,” they said. “It probably makes a big difference for people in the LGBTQ community. Feeling like you can be kicked out of a business or turned away from any kind of public facility for who you are is incredibly degrading.”