Q&A: Why City Council Revised Its Nondiscrimination Ordinance Repeal

Dec 21, 2016
Originally published on December 22, 2016 9:20 am

The General Assembly is meeting at this hour to discuss repealing House Bill 2, though the repeal effort was thrown into turmoil when rumors began circulating Tuesday that the Charlotte City Council had not fully repealed its entire nondiscrimination ordinance. WFAE’s David Boraks talks to host Nick de la Canal to help clear things up.

DE LE CANAL: So David, let me start by asking, did Charlotte repeal the entire nondiscrimination ordinance on Monday or didn’t it?

BORAKS: Well Nick, the quick answer is no. It's really confusing, and we're still trying to sort it all out. There's lots of ordinance numbers and things like that to understand.

But the city council on Monday did not repeal everything it added in February when it expanded its nondiscrimination ordinance to include sexual orientation and a couple of other classes. The issue here is that the nondiscrimination ordinance has several subsections.

On Monday, city council did repeal all the parts concerning hotels, restaurants and other places of public accommodations, as well as taxis and limos. City attorney Bob Hagemann says that action includes any part that goes to the controversy over House Bill 2.  

In other words, the council believed that it was repealing what the legislators were concerned about. 

But the city council did not repeal something else it added in February – what’s called the commercial part of the nondiscrimination ordinance. That concerns businesses that contract with the city, and the council added language in February preventing those businesses from discriminating against their vendors or customers just because they’re LGBT.

The city attorney has said all along that House Bill 2 did not invalidate that change. So the city left it on the books on Monday – they didn’t think it was part of the issue.

Here's what Hagemann says: 

HAGEMANN: That ordinance being left in place had absolutely no effect on public accommodations or the restroom, locker room or changing facility issue. 

BORAKS: So the city left it on the books. They didn't think it was part of the issue. But this morning, the city repealed that part too. In short, the city has now repealed everything it added in February that the got the attention of legislators and led to the passage of HB 2.

DE LA CANAL: That's a lot to take in. I hope the listeners had pencil and paper handy. Did Charlotte City Council know what it was doing on Monday? Was this intentional?

BORAKS: The city insists, the city leaders, Bob Hagemann, council members say they were not trying to play tricks. They thought the part they left on the books was not part of this HB 2 fight.  

But we know from discussions overnight in Raleigh that I guess it was.

Mayor Roberts and several council members said they acted in good faith and they believed they were doing what the legislature asked. Here's Bob Hagemann again:

HAGEMANN: It was our understanding that that approach would be acceptable.

BORAKS: Apparently it wasn't, at least to some legislators. As we were just saying, there were some sections of the ordinance that didn't get repealed and that led to lots of discussions behind closed doors in caucus meetings in Raleigh last night. And lots of news stories. You know the news this morning has been full of stories about how the HB 2 deal may be falling apart.

DE LE CANAL: Is this going to be enough to appease state legislators, enough that may follow through with repealing House Bill 2 later today?

BORAKS: Well, assuming the lines of communication between Charlotte and Raleigh are open and the word gets to Raleigh about what Charlotte has done, things could look good.

Republicans didn’t sound so happy yesterday. Dallas Woodhouse, the executive director of the NCGOP, put out a statement saying that he did not like what was happening and accusing the Charlotte council of acting in bad faith.

And again, that's why the city attorney Bob Hagemann this morning took pains to say this was not any kind of a trick, this was the council acting in good faith.

DE LA CANAL: What was the reaction from city council members today? The vote today was not unanimous this morning.

BORAKS: Well, it wasn’t unanimous. It was 7 - 2. Council members Al Austin and Lawana Mayfield voted against it. It should be noted that both are gay. We're not sure exactly what their thinking was but we're going to be pursuing that story the rest of the day.

DE LA CANAL: OK, anything else to note from this morning's city council meeting?

BORAKS: Today's action didn't include one thing that was in the resolution the council passed on Monday - a clawback provision.

On Monday, the council said if the legislature doesn't act by December 31, the repeal would be nullified.

That is not in what was passed today. City Council member Vi Lyles said the council was acting in good faith - and hopes lawmakers to the same.  

LYLES: What I would hope is that we see trust developing between Raleigh and Charlotte.

BORAKS: Council member Kenny Smith also said he hopes the actions today build and show all along we knew we were working in good faith. So we will have to see how things develop in Raleigh today.

DE LA CANAL: OK, David Boraks, thank you so much.

Copyright 2016 WFAE-FM. To see more, visit WFAE-FM.