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Equality advocates to lawmakers: Please don’t legislate in favor of hate and discrimination

Erica Lachowitz [1]

Charlotte resident Erica Lachowitz

A group of human and civil rights advocates gathered in front of the state Legislative Building this morning to plead with state lawmakers and Governor McCrory not to try and override the nondiscrimination ordinance adopted by the city of Charlotte.

As we have reported previously [2], conservative legislators are threatening to call a special session of the General Assembly prior to next month’s scheduled return in order to take precisely such action. The explanation for the action: the professed (and illusory) concern that the law’s guarantee of access to public restrooms for transgender people will somehow serve as an invitation for male sexual predators to enter women’s restrooms.

At this morning’s event, a long list of speakers stood up to patiently explain the absurdity of this rationale. Perhaps most impressive among the speakers, however, was Charlottean Erica Lachowitz a transgender woman, who noted that she has known her true gender since she was five years old. In quiet and patient but powerful remarks, Lachowitz explained that she understood the fear and confusion of people who haven’t had the opportunity to learn about the reality of what confronts transgender people, but called on them to learn. She also noted the danger that she feels and has felt (both for herself and her child) for years whenever she was unable to use a women’s restroom and pleaded with lawmakers not to try and force her back into the dangerous situations from which she has, effectively, escaped.

Lachowitz was joined at the podium today by the Rev. Nancy Petty, Pastor at Raleigh’s Pullen Memorial Baptist Church, two Triangle-area business owners, spokespersons for Equality NC and the ACLU of North Carolina, Charlotte City Council member John Autry and other religious leaders.

Petty decried the trend evident in the recent actions of North Carolina elected officials to enshrine discrimination and exclusion and called on leaders to follow the teachings advanced by multiple faiths to elevate love and compassion over hate.

Autry pointed out the need for the Charlotte area to be a modern and welcoming city if it wants to continue to thrive economically and generate 32% of the state’s economic activity.

In her remarks, Sarah Preston of the ACLU pointed out that if there’s any violence or harassment taking place in public restrooms, transgender people are vastly more likely to be the victims rather than the perpetrators. She noted that fully half of transgender people report being harassed and 8% say they have been physically assaulted simply for being who they are.

Though news reports indicate that majorities of both the House and Senate have expressed a desire to convene a special session, legislative leaders have not indicated yet whether or not they will actually do so.

Stay tuned.