It's Wake-Up Time, City of Charlotte

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Dr. Michael Brown pleads with the people of Charlotte to wake up to the consequences of its new bill.
Dr. Michael Brown pleads with the people of Charlotte to wake up to the consequences of its new bill. (James Willamor/Flickr/Creative Commons)

In the name of anti-discrimination, the City Council of Charlotte, North Carolina, is poised to discriminate against people of conservative moral values, also imposing the struggles of a tiny minority on every man, woman and child who lives or works in Charlotte or might happen to visit the city.

It's wake-up time, Charlotte! It's not too late to make a change.

According to an in-depth review by a team of lawyers with the Alliance Defending Freedom, a new bill, which the City Council will vote on after a public meeting on Monday, Feb. 23, "does not contain adequate safeguards for constitutionally protected speech and free exercise of religion."

If the bill is passed, it would raise the following legal concerns:

1) "It will infringe First Amendment free speech and free exercise rights by requiring business owners to engage in certain activities, or support certain messages, in violation of their religious beliefs."

Just ask florist Barronelle Stutzman what this means in practical terms. As noted by the ADF, Barronelle, the owner of Arlene's Flowers in Richland, Washington, "has for her entire 40-year career served and employed people who identify as gay and lesbian. But when one of her long-time clients asked her to create the floral arrangement for his same-sex ceremony, Barronelle declined," believing that "marriage is a sacred institution, created by God, and that it is only the union of a man and a woman."

It has been Barronelle's practice to carefully create "each wedding floral arrangement, designing the flowers to communicate the beauty and joy of the event," and so she "believed that it would be wrong for her to use her artistic talents to create floral arrangements for a wedding that she believed to be in conflict with God's intention for marriage. So she declined to create the requested arrangements, but she gladly referred her long-time customer to another florist."

This is entirely reasonable, and the city should not be able to force someone to violate such basic religious beliefs any more than it should be able to force a religious Jewish photographer to shoot a wedding on the Sabbath or a religious Muslim caterer to provide pork for a wedding reception.

In the case of 70-year-old Barronelle Stutzman, although the "customer easily found another florist, going with one of the florists to which [she] had referred him ... he and his same-sex partner filed a complaint against Barronelle anyway, pursuant to Washington's sexual-orientation nondiscrimination law."

The state attorney general has joined in the case against her, and if the case succeeds, she will lose her business of more than four decades and face personal financial devastation.

Cases just like hers are being brought across the country.

City of Charlotte, this could be coming to you next. It's time to wake up!

2) This bill "will require businesses, private clubs, and perhaps even churches and other houses of worship, to make their restrooms open to both sexes, and also force fitness centers to make their restrooms, locker rooms, and shower rooms open to both sexes. This will violate the constitutional right to privacy and place these entities at risk of lawsuits."

I remind you that this is not the analysis of some Internet conspiracy theorist. It is the analysis of seasoned attorneys who are dealing with similar laws and bills and court cases around the country.

I'm all for having compassion on people who struggle with gender identity, but there is no reason for them to impose their struggles on everyone else.

Fathers and grandfathers, do you want to send your 10-year-old daughter or granddaughter into the restroom at McDonald's only to have her come running out saying, "Daddy (or Grandpa), there's a man in the bathroom dressed like a lady!"

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