The backstory to the Charlotte Observer article from May 3rd.
When a preacher got up before the Charlotte city council on March 2, 2015 and said Janice Covington was “a man in a dress [who] walked out of the women’s bathroom” that was only the middle part of a story that started many months earlier.
The nondiscrimination ordinance started – according to Covington – over a local community college issue regarding a transgender student in a restroom.
If truth were to be told—that whole issue should and could have been handled as an administrative internal matter—as most things of that nature are.
But, it wasn’t—it escalated.
Scott Bishop with HRC – MECK Pac, went before the Charlotte city council and the administration and worked out a complex nondiscrimination ordinance with four different parts.
Before it was over, Equality NC and the state Democratic LGBT got involved to offer support (sigh).
Over the past few months, I’ve talk to a few lawyers who actually looked at the ordinance and who understand state and federal statutes.
Most say that although those organizations had a perfect right to pursue their cause—it was much ado about nothing. Most of the language already exists in one form or another in other areas of the law.
Except for Ordinance #4: BATHROOMS
There are no state or federal laws – pursuant to accommodation of choice based on gender identity. In North Carolina it’s left up to the municipalities—and that probably is a good thing.
When HRC found out they didn’t have the votes to pass the ordinance—they wanted to throw out the bathroom clause. But, it was too late—the media and conservative organizations had already gotten wind of the issue and the firestorm was afoot.
From the very beginning, Janice Covington told HRC and the supporters of the nondiscrimination ordinance it wouldn’t pass and the votes weren’t there. “I told them they were going about it the wrong way,” she told me in a telephone conversation.
“I went to every council member—I know them all—and I talked with them individually. I knew the votes weren’t there from the way they answered my questions.”
Originally, Covington wasn’t even invited to speak at the pubic comment hearing before the city council on March 2nd. But, when she made international news as the first transgender to run for NCDP Chair—her presence almost became a necessity—especially in light of another candidate who ended up being elected calling her ‘a man’ at a candidate forum.
THE COUNCIL VOTED DOWN THE ISSUE
Even though the city council voted down the ordnance—Janice didn’t stop. “I do business in that building—I needed to know what to expect the next time I went in there and needed to use the restroom,” she said. “I’m 67 years old and have medical issues that cause me to go to the restroom more often—I can’t help that.”
Covington wrote letters to the city in an effort to get them to clarify their position on bathroom issues within city buildings as it relates to gender identity.
And, as stated in the Charlotte Observer article—the response was favorable to her. But, it goes beyond that on many levels and it points to the failure of the LGBT community and how they relate and communicate with their transgender brother and sisters.
Janice Covington has been an activist for transgender rights for over 30 years—longer than some LGBT leaders have been alive; she knows a thing or two about getting things done in politics.
But, not once did anyone from HRC, the LGBT community or Equality NC ever reach out to activity engage her and solicit her opinion and consultation.
In fact, I have followed this story from the beginning and I would go so far as to say they purposefully shied away from her.
It was Covington who cleared the air regarding the Charlotte bathroom issue—not Equality NC, not HRC and not anyone in the local or state LGBT movement.
Had they worked with her from the beginning—it would have caused less headache, less attention (or was that the aim all along) and it certainly would have been less expensive.
This is yet another example of LGBT activist saying one thing and doing another.
Janice was recently awarded the Rosa Parks Award for her activism. She was appointed to the North Carolina Democratic Party delegate selection committee to the 2016 DNC convention. She was elected to serve as a State Executive Committee member and is a Mecklenburg county precinct chair.