Contrary to what we hear so often in modern America, our founders believed that political conflict was not just acceptable, but that it was necessary for the continued existence and well-being of our Republic. If one looks at their design for government, conflict is inherent everywhere. The two chambers of Congress—the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House—are in conflict with each other. Likewise, the three branches of government—the Legislative Branch, the Executive Branch, and the Judicial Branch—comprise what we refer to as the “balance of powers,” a natural and intended conflict. The States are, at times, in conflict with Federal government and each other, and the interests of citizens are often in conflict with one another. The founders believed that conflict would produce compromise, and that through that compromise, no one faction or group of people could grow too powerful or influential. It is for this reason that it is so vital for citizens to stand up and voice their opinions and values, because otherwise the balance that is created through conflict would be lost, and the rights of many would be put in danger.
The City of Charlotte is currently in the midst of an unbalancing act in regard to the debate surrounding a proposed “non-discrimination” ordinance. It began last March when Charlotte was pulled into a heated debate over a proposal that would have changed its “public accommodations” ordinance to give sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression protected legal status in the city. It could also create situations where business owners would be forced to choose between participation in same-sex union celebrations, even if it violated their sincerely held religious beliefs about marriage and sexuality, or face legal action against them. Similar measures have been used to impose severe fines on small business owners around the country and even put some out of business.
The amendment was narrowly defeated in the City Council last year after an impassioned discussion. Still stinging from defeat, supporters of the measure lashed out at what they called “the divisive, prejudiced rhetoric of out of town special interests.” This is an interesting accusation from a group that accepted close to $10,000 in campaign donations from out of town groups in an attempt to put City Council members in office that are amenable to passing laws giving protected status to individuals who identify as gay, lesbian, and transgender, with no religious exemptions.
In September’s primary election for city council and mayor, LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) advocacy groups in Charlotte made no secret of their intentions to elect candidates favorable to passing the defeated “public accommodations” ordinance. As MeckPAC, a local LGBT group put it: “Our goal this year was simple – be very intentional in identifying the slate of candidates who will provide the LGBT community the best chance for a fully inclusive non-discrimination ordinance in Charlotte.”
To achieve this goal, a coalition of groups dubbed “TurnOUT! Charlotte” spent close to $15,000, sent out thousands of pieces of mail, contacted over 10,000 voters, and worked countless hours. The majority of the money and staff came from the Human Rights Campaign and EqualityNC, two activist lobbying groups based in Washington D.C. and Raleigh respectively. This was a well-funded, well-organized and intentional attempt by both local and out of town interest groups to help elect candidates that would reintroduce and vote to pass the non-discrimination amendment.
We are now witnessing the culmination of these unbalanced efforts. As we’ve been reporting, the Charlotte City Council is planning to reintroduce the amendment. They could vote on it as early as February 8. It is clear that the LGBT cause is made up of well-funded and organized interest groups that are working to achieve their goals through recruiting and finding candidates that will represent their agenda.
The point of this article is not to disparage or attack those groups or the people they represent. It is to show that, without proper opposition and conflict, these groups may indeed succeed, and their success will result in violations of religious liberties and privacy. Citizens are encouraged to stand up and oppose this amendment in order to achieve the balance that occurs when conflict engenders compromise.
Opposition to this ordinance is not based out of “divisive, prejudiced rhetoric” as stated by its supporters. It is based in the desire to protect both the exercise of religious freedom and the privacy of individuals in the spaces where they are often most vulnerable.
All citizens should be treated with dignity and respect. At the same time, citizens should not fear legal ramifications for acting on their constitutionally protected religious beliefs. A common sense accommodation can be found wherein proper and necessary protections can provide the dignity and respect all citizens desire, while maintaining the important pillar of religious liberty.
In order to find this middle ground, however, there first has to be conflict. The LGBT community has raised its voice. It is time for the opposition to be heard again. It is not only what the founders hoped would happen, but what they knew had to happen in order for a healthy balance of power to be maintained.