The city council of Charlotte, N.C., the hometown of world-renowned Evangelist Billy Graham, narrowly voted on Monday to reject a proposed expansion to the town's non-discrimination law that would have made it legal for transgender persons to use bathrooms and other public facilities designated for the opposite sex.
After hearing four hours of public input from supporters and opponents of the proposal Monday evening, the council voted, 6-5, after an hour of discussion, to throw out the entire ordinance bill.
The proposal would not just have given transgenders the right to use the opposite gender's restrooms but would have also made it illegal for Charlotte business owners to decline service in order to uphold their Christian beliefs that same-sex marriages is wrong.
"The Charlotte City Council made the right decision ... A big thank you to the council members who stood against this proposition," Franklin Graham, Billy Graham's son and President of Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan's Purse humanitarian organization, told the Charlotte Observer.
Rev. Mark Creech, director of the North Carolina Christian Action League, told The Christian Post that although he and many other Christians in Charlotte are happy that the council decided to strike down the bill, he admits that he did not expect the council to full-out reject the entire proposal.
"We were delighted to see that the measure failed," Creech said. "Many of us were really surprised that it went that way. We anticipated that the ordinance would likely succeed or an amended ordinance would succeed that excluded the bathroom provision but the entire ordinance failed."
According to The Charlotte Observer, over 40,000 emails were sent to the city council from supporters and opponents on the issue, while 120 people had registered to speak on the issue at the Monday council meeting. Before a vote on the ordinance occurred, the council voted, 9-2, to remove the transgender bathroom requirement from the legislation.
Creech was thoroughly pleased with the amount of churches and clergy that voiced their opposition to the bill and made it clear that such an ordinance would put women and children in danger.
"I was glad to see so many churches and pastors who were engaged in the process and came and spoke against the ordinance," Creech explained. "I haven't seen that kind of participation on the part of the church on some of these issues since the marriage amendment was voted on in North Carolina almost three years ago. That was delightful to see."
Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the statewide social conservative organization North Carolina Values Coalition, praised the council's decision as a victory for protected religious liberties in Charlotte, as many Christian florists and bakers in other areas of the U.S. have faced stiff legal consequences for their faithful refusal to service same-sex weddings.
"We applaud the community leaders and citizens of Charlotte for speaking out against a dangerous ordinance that would have compromised the safety of the city's public restrooms and the religious liberty of Charlotte's business owners," Fitzgerald said in a press statement. "The Charlotte City Council made the right decision in voting against unnecessary proposed changes to the city's nondiscrimination policy. We will continue to fight these proposals across the state wherever they might pop up."
City councilman Kenny Smith, who voted against the proposal, said the partisan proposal was largely shaped by the Washington D.C.-based LGBT organization Human Rights Campaign and a local group called the Mecklenburg LGBT Political Action Committee.
"I think if it's passed, it would be a clear message to the city that the city council has voted to impose the progressive left's view of morality on the majority of our citizens," Smith said, according to The Christian Examiner.
Although the council struck down the ordinance, Creech does not believe the non-discrimination ordinance battle has concluded in Charlotte or North Carolina.
"I would caution that I am concerned that the issue may not be over. A vote that close, 6-5, may mean that somehow or another that the council will come back together to try it again." Creech said. "One of the things that I said to our supporters on a Facebook post was that we rejoice in that decision by the council that religious liberties are still protected and we are thankful that women and young girls are out of harms way."