Applying the Principles of Freedom & Individual Liberty
A Conservative Non-Discrimination Ordinance for Charlotte
By Tariq Bokhari and Kyle Luebke
Several months ago, we convened a group of Young Republicans to embark on a mission. We knew the Non-Discrimination Ordinance was going to be back in play. As Charlotte Republicans, we were tired of not being invited to the table. We were tired of being presented flawed policy at the last moment and then being painted as the party of no, as the party of exclusion.
We set to work with a simple goal: how could we use conservative principles to have a proactive stance on the NDO? After all, our core principles define our party. We analyzed them over countless hours of debate. Limited government with a heart. Lower taxes while funding sustainable solutions for the least of us. Operating always under the rule of law, while recognizing all laws aren’t perfect. It becomes a lot harder to take positions when you must align to unwavering principles, but in that challenge lies our unique strength.
Then we found the perfect fit, in the principle we hold most dear, to guide our NDO position: Freedom.
As we dissected the various ordinances we could deploy these aspects of shared freedom, we found the opportunity to be more expansive in our NDO proposal than had ever been attempted in Charlotte. We started with the simple premise that individual liberty manifests itself in the marketplace as either expressive behavior or standard behavior. From the premise, we found, flowed some striking conclusions. On the one hand, forcing a baker whose business is performing expressive and custom behavior to bake a cake conveying a message they find objectionable infringes on individual freedom. On the other hand, not allowing a gay couple to eat at a restaurant with a standard menu because of who they are, or refusing to rent an apartment to a transgender person because they are trans, infringes on their freedom.
Applying these basic tenets, we were able to craft simple yet powerful NDO language that applied to restaurants, public accommodations, hotels, motels, housing, and employment. It protects the freedom not just of our LGBTQ+ community but also our Black community through the inclusion of natural hair style.
Our ordinance language is unique because of its breadth. Most of the NDO’s passed in North Carolina since January only incorporate protections in public accommodations and employment. Even the proposed language proposed by the Community Relations Committee back in March only incorporated protections in restaurants, hotels and motels. Our language extends to essential housing protections. Going further than other ordinances in this way is important and is consistent with our principle of freedom.
Our proposal is similar to only one other ordinance – that of the Town of Apex – in that we have strong protections for religious individuals and organizations. In a pluralistic society, we must ensure the exercise of our individual freedoms don’t infringe upon the liberty and freedom of others. That is why we have incorporated language which explicitly prohibits the government from compelling speech or expressive conduct in violation of the Constitution. We have also made clear that no religious organization should be compelled to hire someone who does not adhere to the tenants of that religious organization, consistent with Supreme Court precedent.
Once we completed our work, we went on a dialogue tour with our side of the aisle. Conservative groups across the state. Members of the NC General Assembly. Top conservative Christian leaders. We even convened a meeting of regional Republican group leaders to debate our position, reflecting both the beauty and burden of operating from principles.
We were expecting pushback given the hot-button nature of the topic. Instead, we received thoughtful challenges and logical pushbacks that ended up making the end product even better. And here’s a surprise for outside observers who only sees the media caricature of conservatives: we received support and encouragement.
Will every Republican agree with this conclusion? No. But we have done enough homework to have confidence that our principled argument will stand strong. And while we hope that one day soon this type of ordinance won’t be necessary, for today it is a reasonable approach.
Republicans have a great tradition of fighting for equal rights and making those freedoms a priority even when it isn’t easy. We are the party of Abraham Lincoln. There would be no Civil Rights Act of 1964 if not for Republicans. In 2021, when the freedom of even one of our citizens is threatened, the world will once again see the undeniable power of our conservative principles at work.
Tariq Bokhari is a Charlotte City Councilman, and Kyle Luebke is a Board Member of the Mecklenburg County Young Republicans and the Vice Chair of The Plus Collective – Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s LGBTQ+ Community Fund. Young Republicans Maya Pillai and Brad Thomas also served on the Conservative NDO Working Group.
6/29 UPDATE: V2 of this NDO draft has been updated below with the following readers notes:
Two weeks ago, Charlotte Councilmember Tariq Bokhari and a group of Young Republicans introduced a non-discrimination ordinance to protect LGBTQ+ people and individuals with natural hair in the city of Charlotte. These protections were more robust than almost any other ordinance proposed in North Carolina and included employment, public accommodations and housing. In consultation with key community stakeholders – including Equality North Carolina and the Carolinas LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce – Councilmember Bokhari has released an updated draft of this proposed ordinance based on conservative principles of individual liberty.
Included in the new draft are additional protections encompassing veterans, as well as pregnancy and marital status. Further, as allowed by North Carolina law, remedies related to equitable enforcement of the ordinance have been added. These provisions not only ensure that the new non-discrimination ordinance is effective, but it further provides necessary updates to the current non-discrimination provisions in Charlotte Code. This work included significant analysis of our conservative principles, paired with review of actual enforcement data in other municipalities.
“Though we hope that parties to any enforcement action brought by the City are able to settle their differences amicably, the new provisions provide teeth to our non-discrimination protections,” said Councilmember Bokhari. “These added protections bring Charlotte’s Code up to date and ensure that the individual rights and freedoms of those who may be discriminated against are protected”.
7/27 UPDATE: V3 of this NDO draft has been updated below with the following readers notes:
We are happy that the Democrats on City Council have finally released draft language for Charlotte’s non-discrimination ordinance. It is a testament to the Republican led effort on this topic that the Democratic draft language addresses important areas such as full public accommodation protections for LGBTQ+ people, individuals with natural hair styles, pregnant women and veterans. Unfortunately, the Democratic proposal is not as robust as the Republican draft and suffers from a few major flaws as outlined below:
In sum, the Democratic proposal lacks essential protections and clarity while the Republican proposal gives a clear roadmap for those discriminated against in our City.
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