Charlotte Fails to Protect People by Rejecting Non-Discrimination Policies

April 7, 2015

By: Carla Vestal

On March 2, 2015, Charlotte City Council (“the Council”) voted on an ordinance that would allow all people to be treated equally and fairly under the law. Unfortunately, the Council failed to adopt these much needed policies that would prohibit private businesses and certain public positions, such as for-hire transportation and city contractors, from freely discriminating against people because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression.

The final vote came down to 1 single vote, as it ended up 6-5. This single vote came after hours of debate from both sides of the aisle, and at that point the controversial bathroom portion of the ordinance was already stricken. The bathroom portion of the ordinance would have allowed transgender individuals to use the bathroom of the gender in which they identify themselves. This was the most controversial piece of the policy, and even though it was removed it seems that certain members of the Council still used it to vote against what was being presented. “All over the world, there are restrooms for men and restrooms for women,” said Ed Driggs, a Republican Council member. “It does not place an unreasonable burden on them and it does not stigmatize them.”   Another Republican Council member, Kenny Smith, asserted that the bill was not a measure to stop discrimination, but to “impose the progressive left’s new morality on our citizens.”

Photo courtesy of The Charlotte Observer.

Opponents to the policy at the Council hearing. Photo courtesy of The Charlotte Observer.

When discrimination is discussed in the government, it should not become an issue of alleged morality. Discrimination in and of itself is immoral. Discrimination is prohibited by the United States Constitution by the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and applied to the states through the Incorporation Doctrine of the Fifth Amendment. It is simple–and yet disturbingly difficult–for people who oppose equality under the veil of a religious responsibility to do so.

Jason Arter, a current Clinic student, attended the meeting and shares his first-hand account of the spectacle at the Government Center that day. Mr. Arter informs us that, “[The scene] was about religion, and the damnation that is going to occur. . . not just for those in favor of the ordinance, but also for those that have selected to be comfortable with who they are, in whatever gender they feel most comfortable expressing themselves.” Mr. Arter also reveals that the Council members opposing the ordinance insisted on continuing to make links between bathroom usage, homosexuality, and pedophilia even after the bathroom portion was stricken from the vote. When asked about how he felt after the vote, Mr. Arter has a very strong opinion to share, “Community members should be outraged, not just that the ordinance failed, not that those who are elected failed to fairly represent all members of a community, but that religion has yet again dictated the course of the future for all members of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg community instead of the government.”

The question remains: “Why would Charlotte not want to join to rest of the country in passing these protections?”

Out of the country’s twenty largest cities by population, Charlotte is one of three that does not have in place non-discrimination policies. The other cities that join Charlotte are Memphis, TN and Jacksonville, FL. Throughout the country seventeen states and over 200 municipalities have non-discrimination policies in place to protect people who identify as LGBTQ. While visiting Charlotte, Vice President Joe Biden addressed the Human Rights Campaign Spring Equality Convention on March 7, 2015. During his speech he urged that the entire country needs to pass non-discrimination policies that protect the LGBQT community and stressed that those policies need to be passed now.  Biden also affirmed his support for a “federal non-discrimination . . . bill that is expected to include protections in employment, housing, public accommodations, credit, education, jury service and federal funding.” The bill is expected to be introduced to Congress this spring.

If you feel that Charlotte should join the rest of the country in protecting all people from discrimination, continue to reach out my emailing and calling your city leaders:

Mayor Dan Clodfelter
704-336-2241
mayor@charlottenc.gov

Mayor Pro Tem Michael D. Barnes
704-509-6141
barnesforcharlotte@gmail.com

Claire Green Fallon
704-336-6105
cfallon@charlottenc.gov

David Howard
704-336-4099
info@davidhowardclt.com

Vi Lyles
704-336-3431
vlyles@charlottenc.gov

Patsy B. Kinsey
704-336-3432
pkinsey@charlottenc.gov

Al Austin
704-336-3185
aaustin@charlottenc.gov

LaWana Mayfield
704-336-3435
lmayfield@charlottenc.gov

Gregory A. Phipps
704-336-3436
gaphipps@charlottenc.gov

John N. Autry
704-336-2777
jautry@charlottenc.gov

Kenny Smith
704-574-7241
krsmith@charlottenc.gov

Edmund H. Driggs
704-432-7077
ed@eddriggs.com

When fair-minded people join together anything is possible!


Attend Charlotte City Council Meeting on March 2nd to Support the LGBTQ Community by Standing-Up against Discrimination

February 26, 2015

CALL TO ACTION:

When: March 2, 2015 at 4 p.m.

Where: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center, 600 East Fourth Street

What to Do: Wear blue to show your support for these critical non-discrimination protections

Charlotte has once again found itself getting national news coverage for leading the way in the fight for equality in the LGTBQ community. On March 2, 2015, the City Council will vote on a proposed ordinance that would make it punishable for the city’s taxicabs, limousine providers and other “For Hire” means of transportation to discriminate against the LGTBQ community. The ordinance will also affect contractors holding city jobs by prohibiting discrimination against sub-contractors who identify as part of LBGTQ community. Other proposed parts of the ordinance include not allowing businesses to refuse service to anyone based on their sexual orientation, gender identity or sexual expression.[1]

Who could possibly be against people being treated equally?

Franklin Graham, son of the famed southern preacher Billy Graham, is leading the opposition to Charlotte’s proposed non-discrimination policy. Locally, Graham has partnered with the Benham Brothers, who are the sons of anti-gay street preacher Flip Benham. The Benham Brothers found themselves under the spotlight last year when HGTV cancelled their upcoming do-it-yourself show because of their views on homosexuality. All three politically right wing and religiously conservative men have joined forces with NC Values Coalition, the same group that failed in their efforts to ban gay marriage in North Carolina.

This force of oppression has been organizing their fan bases, church groups, and anyone who listens to write letters to the members of Charlotte City Council and the Editor of the Charlotte Observer. The group is also organizing followers to attend the City Council Meeting on March 2nd to voice their opposition to people being treating fairly under the law.

And That is Where You Come In!

Your help is needed to stand up against opposition to the policy! The policy was recently presented at the annual Human Rights Campaign (“HRC”) Gala, which former Clinic member Tierra Ragland had the privilege to attend on February 21st. For those that are unfamiliar with the HRC, it is the nation’s leading authority on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues.

Tierra Ragland at the HRC Gala.

Tierra Ragland at the HRC Gala.

Ragland reported that “several elected Charlotte officials attended the gala.” She also voiced concern that although these officials were in attendance, she was very interested in seeing if their voting will reflect expanding protections to include all people. At the gala, the HRC handed out cards with the Call to Action with the following statement:

“On March 2nd, the Charlotte City Council will decide whether to update the city’s non-discrimination laws to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents and visitors from arbitrary discrimination in public accommodations, commercial contracting, and passenger vehicles for hire. No one should be refused service in a restaurant or taxi just because of who they are.”

If you believe that people deserve to be treated fairly and equally at all times under the law and that Charlotte should be held responsible for protecting all people from discrimination, bullying and unfair treatment of any kind, then please heed the Call of Action above and stand-up to hate. If you are unable to attend on March 2nd, you can still stop discrimination in its tracks by sending an email or calling Charlotte leaders letting them know you support non-discrimination policies:

Mayor Dan Clodfelter
704-336-2241
mayor@charlottenc.gov

Mayor Pro Tem Michael D. Barnes
704-509-6141
barnesforcharlotte@gmail.com

Claire Green Fallon
704-336-6105
cfallon@charlottenc.gov

David Howard
704-336-4099
info@davidhowardclt.com

Vi Lyles
704-336-3431
vlyles@charlottenc.gov

Patsy B. Kinsey
704-336-3432
pkinsey@charlottenc.gov

Al Austin
704-336-3185
aaustin@charlottenc.gov

LaWana Mayfield
704-336-3435
lmayfield@charlottenc.gov

Gregory A. Phipps
704-336-3436
gaphipps@charlottenc.gov

John N. Autry
704-336-2777
jautry@charlottenc.gov

Kenny Smith
704-574-7241
krsmith@charlottenc.gov

Edmund H. Driggs
704-432-7077
ed@eddriggs.com

When fair-minded people join together anything is possible!

[1] See http://charmeck.org/city/charlotte/CityClerk/Documents/Agendas/2015/02.09.15.pdf#search=Transgender%20ordinance to review City Attorney Robert Hageman’s briefing paper and proposed draft of the policy and to access the Human Right’s Coalition’s “Frequently Asked Questions.” (41-56).


Homeless Court Initiative Taking Shape in Charlotte

December 19, 2014

Homeless Courts, which are alternative-sentencing programs for those charged with a status offense due to their lack of housing, have been established in many major cities across the United States.  Homeless court programs began in San Diego in 1989, and have since been the model program for the other cities.  The American Bar Association, which adopted a model policy in 2006 for homeless courts, describes the purpose of the program best:

“[t]o counteract the effect of criminal cases pushing homeless defendants further outside society, this court combines a progressive plea bargain system, an alternative sentencing structure, and proof of community-based shelter program activities to address a range of misdemeanor offenses. Homeless courts expand access to justice, reduce court costs, and help homeless people reintegrate into society and lead productive lives.”

Over the past several months, a coalition has begun to establish a homeless court here in Charlotte.  With the help of the Civil Rights Clinic, this group has been researching, developing, and gathering community interest.  Each city has their own unique model tailored to the needs of their clients, and we are focused on doing the same.  For more information about our efforts or to join the coalition, please email jhuber@charlottelaw.edu.  For more information on homeless courts across the country, see:

For an American Bar Association publication on its adoption of homeless courts, see: http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/migrated/homeless/PublicDocuments/HCP_Manual.authcheckdam.pdf.

Our coalition hard at work at the CSL Civil Rights Clinic.

Our coalition hard at work at the CSL Civil Rights Clinic.


I Am Not My Record

March 13, 2014

By Brittany Moore

Four and a half years ago former Civil Rights Clinic (“CRC”) members initiated a project called Ban The Box (“BTB”) in an attempt to persuade the City of Charlotte (“City”) to remove the question on initial employment applications asking about an applicant’s criminal history. On March 1, 2014, we accomplished that goal.[1] This blog will take you through what BTB is, the history of the BTB movement in the City, the future of Ban The Box in North Carolina, and my personal reflection on BTB and the recent outcome.

What is BTB?

BTB is a grassroots movement that began in 2004 in California by encouraging public and private employers to remove the application question that asks, “Have you ever been convicted of a crime other than minor traffic offenses.” This postpones inquiry into an applicant’s criminal history until later in the hiring process.

BTB does not propose that employers mandated by law to conduct criminal background checks for the particular position, for example police officer, remove the question from their applications nor does it propose that employers never be allowed to conduct a criminal background check.

The purpose of the BTB movement is to level out the playing field for job applicants who have a criminal history. Removing the conviction inquiry box from job applications allows the applicant to be considered objectively for a position based upon their qualifications.  As a result a person who would otherwise be qualified for a job, absent their criminal

 history, is given an opportunity to be interviewed and demonstrate to the potential employer they are both qualified and rehabilitated. Another goal removing the box achieves is removing the mental barrier experienced by those who have a criminal history when they are applying for jobs. Many people have said they feel as though their application is thrown in the trash or not considered because they have checked the box when it is being reviewed next to an applicant who does not have a criminal history, and unfortunately this may actually be the case. To date, over fifty cities and municipalities have BTB, six of these are in NC, including Charlotte, and ten states have adopted statewide BTB ordinances.[2]

 

CRC and BTB

LaWanna Mayfield, All Of Us Or None, MOURN, local business, and individuals with criminal histories; who took on BTB in an effort to persuade the City of Charlotte to BTB.  Research indicates there are three major issues affecting Charlotte: homelessness, recidivism, and unemployment.[3] The students reached out to the community regarding BTB and rapidly gained support. On February 27, 2013, the CRC and over one-hundred community members and representatives from local organizations and businesses, wearing the BTB red, rallied and spoke in an attempt to persuade the City Council to send BTB to the Economic and Development Committee (“Committee”) for further review—which it did by a six to four vote.[4] Organizations and businesses in attendance included Changed Choices, Pasta & Provisions, Democracy NC, Action NC, Charlotte Community Justice Coalition, and Center for Community Transitions (“CCT”), just to name a few. Unfortunately, after reaching Committee, BTB lost some momentum generated at the Council Meeting in February and did not have enough votes to get out of Committee and into the City ordinances.In 2009, the CRC clinic members were part of a coalition which included CCT, 

Disappointed at the lack of support generated for BTB in Committee, Brittany Moore, Cleat Walters II, Isaac Sturgill, and Erik Ortega (“The Group”) reconvened to strategize and find a new way to bring BTB back to the forefront of the City’s mind. On November 26, 2013, The Group and a citizen affected by the box met with Charlotte City Manger Ron Carlee, Assistant City Manager Ron Kimble, and Director of Human Resources Cheryl Brown. The Group provided statistics to Carlee, Kimble, and Brown showing that 190 of 203 persons who utilized CCT’s assistance in obtaining a job maintained that job and did not recidivate, showing a mere 6% recidivism rate compared to Mecklenburg County’s recidivism rate of 37%. The City already practices progressive non-discriminatory policies, as they currently employ persons with a criminal history, so The Group stressed that by BTB the City would be affirmatively demonstrating this to the citizens.

A citizen personally affected by the box gave some insight into the barriers faced by persons with criminal histories when applying for jobs. The box creates a mental barrier to those with criminal histories in search of a job discouraging them from applying when forced to check the box. Applicants with a criminal history are also discouraged, after applying and checking the box, when an initial interview is not extended. On March 1, 2014, the City removed the box from the City’s job application thereby removing one initial barrier in obtaining employment and encouraging those with criminal histories to actively seek employment and not recidivate.

Civil Rights Clinic Helps Ban the Box

Future of BTB

Students in the CRC are currently planning on lobbying surrounding counties to BTB in an effort to support taking BTB statewide in NC. Additionally, the CRC will be lobbying for private companies to also ban the box, following the lead of Target Corporation,[5] who enacted a BTB policy in 2013 and is the largest privately owned company to date to do so. This would significantly increase employment opportunities for those with prior convictions. Stay tuned to the CRC Blog to follow the expansion and growth of BTB.

Personal Reflection

I began working on BTB through the CRC in August 2013, a slow period in the project. After learning BTB did not have enough votes to get out of Committee, it was a little discouraging so we had to find a way to either regenerate the momentum gained in February 2013 or abandon the project. The latter was not an option because of the countless hours put into the movement so far in Charlotte and the sheer number of persons impacted by the movement. So I began working with the CCT, Erik, Isaac, and Cleat on this project and was honored to do so. Isaac and Cleat were among the initial members to begin BTB and it is humbling to watch their hard work and initial research pay off. Additionally, working with Erik at CCT and the continuous support and resources he provides to persons affected by the box is remarkable. In my short time working on this project I have become heavily invested in the outcome, progression, and future of BTB in NC and nationwide. I cannot wait to see what the future holds for the BTB movement and charge you all to become involved and be a part of something that millions can benefit from.


 


Civil Rights Clinic in the news

November 28, 2013

By: Thom Prince

Recently, Claudine Chalfant of News 14 Carolina paid a visit to the Civil Rights Clinic.  She reported on the work our clinic students, under the supervision of Professor Huber, are doing to help the community, including their place at the forefront for reformations to Charlotte’s Citizen Review Board.  Easing the burden to get full hearings from the CRB is one of the many goals students are working towards to protect the rights of Charlotte citizens.

One of the challenges in serving the underserved is getting the word to those in need that help is available.  We would like to thank Ms. Chalfant for taking the time to help us spread our message and fulfill our mission of service.  The link to the story and video is below.  Those of you who are Time Warner Cable TV subscribers can login with your user ID to view the video.

http://charlotte.news14.com/content/search/701882/charlotte-law-students-dedicate-time-to-citizens-review-board


Rally to Restore the Fourth (Amendment) to be held July 4th, 9am at Trade and Tryon.

July 1, 2013

Restore the Fourth is a grassroots, non-partisan, non-violent movement that seeks to organize and assemble almost 100 protests nationwide on July 4th, 2013.  Restore the Fourth Charlotte is a coalition of with a broad political background who demand that the government of the United States of America adhere to its constitutionally dictated limits and respect the Fourth Amendment. We seek to raise public awareness of the unconstitutional surveillance methods employed by the U.S. government.

Restore the Fourth maintains that justification of the Fourth Amendment beyond the original text need not be given; the legitimacy of which is self-evident. “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” The Fourth Amendment of the Bill of Rights clearly protects all citizens’ assets, both digital and physical, against searches and seizures without warrant.  We aim to assert those rights and insist that the proper channels of government work to ensure that all policy complies with the supreme laws of the United States of America in their entirety.

Restore the Fourth requests that American citizens’ right to privacy is respected and stands with the Electronic Frontier Foundation and StopWatching.us on their open letter to Congress. As informed members of the American electorate, they endorse and echo the letter’s demands:

1. Enact reform this Congress to Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, the state secrets privilege, and the FISA Amendments Act to make clear that blanket surveillance of the Internet activity and phone records of any person residing in the U.S. is prohibited by law and that violations can be reviewed in adversarial proceedings before a public court;

2. Create a special committee to investigate, report, and reveal to the public the extent of this domestic spying. This committee should create specific recommendations for legal and regulatory reform to end unconstitutional surveillance;

3. Hold accountable those public officials who are found to be responsible for this unconstitutional surveillance.

This movement intends to bring an end to twelve years of Fourth Amendment abuses and to ensure that all future government surveillance is constitutional, limited, and clearly defined.  On July 4th at 9:00am, Restore the Fourth Charlotte will rally at the corners of Trade and Tryon to demonstrate the need for a return to the principles of the Constitution. We urge you to join us on the most patriotic of days and to help spread awareness of these violations of our Constitution.


Ban the Box in the News

April 21, 2013

Over the past two months public dialogue about Ban the Box has increased, spurred on by the Charlotte City Council’s decision to send the issue to the Economic Development Committee.  Several local media outlets exposed the issue to a wider audience, and helped Charlotteans begin to understand the importance and details of the proposed ordinance.

Creative Loafing highlighted the contributions of Councilwoman Mayfield and the Civil Right Clinic in getting the City Council to consider the needs of the thousands of Charlotteans who have conviction histories and are looking for work.  Councilwoman champions ‘Banning the Box:’ Spearheaded by LaWana Mayfield, job application question regarding prior convictions debated in city committee.

The Charlotte Observer ran an editorial by Civil Rights Clinic member Cleat Walters III, which highlighted the benefits of the ordinance to the City.  Banning ‘the box’ eliminates unfair obstacle to jobs

Unfortunately, not all of the stories in the media were accurate.  While we all have sympathy for the family and fiance of murder victim Danielle Watson, who was killed during a robbery inside the Flying Biscuit, WBTV’s story highlighting his opposition to Ban the Box “Murder victim’s fiance outraged over bill to remove “felon” question from job application” fails to identify the fact that the ordinance does not prohibit criminal background checks for job applicants.

Hopefully, Charlotte will follow cities like Richmond that recently enacted a similar ordinance as reported by The Richmond Times-Dispatch.  Richmond City Council unanimously passes ‘ban the box’ ordinance.

Ban the Box is slated for discussion during the May 2nd meeting of the Charlotte City Council’s Economic Development Committee.  The coalition hopes the  meeting room CH-14 in the Government Center will be packed when they consider this important measure at 12pm that day.


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