Senator calls bill that repealed Charlotte ordinance a 'political cover'

Published: Mar. 25, 2016 at 7:02 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 25, 2016 at 10:02 PM EDT
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Jason and David Benham (Sarah-Blake Morgan | WBTV)
Jason and David Benham (Sarah-Blake Morgan | WBTV)

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - A North Carolina state senator is speaking out about the passage of a House Bill that he calls a "political cover for an agenda that has nothing to do with the Charlotte ordinance."

State Senator Jeff Jackson, a Democrat, told WBTV he knew the backlash would be big when lawmakers passed a bill that repealed Charlotte's non-discrimination ordinance, along with what he calls a "sweeping legislation."

The ordinance, passed last month by a 7-4 vote from the Charlotte City Council, broadly defined how businesses must treat gay, lesbian and transgender customers. But as in other cities recently, the debate focused on bathrooms.

"When I saw the bill the first thing I thought was they have no idea what's about to happen," Jackson said.

Jackson was there Wednesday, as the legislature presented House Bill Two, a discussion he says was pushed through entirely too fast.

RELATED: McCrory signs bill to undo Charlotte's non-discrimination ordinance

"This entire bill was introduced and passed in half of one day. They don't do things like that if they think the bill is going to be popular," he said. "They do it at the very last minute and they ram it through when they know there is going to be a significant public outcry, as there has been."

Jackson says the bill, which he calls "one of the most dramatic, pro-discrimination bills in the country," allows discrimination against anyone, not just the LGBT community.

RELATED: Law blocking public accommodations also curbs employee suits

"It's a broad-based rollback of civil rights. There are no legal consequences for refusing to serve black people or women or people of a certain religion," he said. "This repealed every non-discrimination ordinance in the state."

The list of companies and organizations speaking out against the state's nondiscrimination vote is growing.

"All the companies that we bend over backwards to try to lure to North Carolina to bring jobs, they're all now denouncing us and having second thoughts all because we decided to overreact to a local ordinance in one city," Jackson said.

The NBA, NCAA, CIAA, IBM, Wells Fargo and Bank of America are some of the companies and organizations who have released statements denouncing discrimination of any kind.

RELATED: Statements from companies, sports organizations about NC House Bill 2

"What's going to happen a week from now or a month from now? We don't want that to happen. We want business to keep coming to North Carolina," Jackson continued.

Charlotte business owners Jason and David Benham welcome the state's decision, but not the threats coming from those organizations.  They publicly supported a special session to repeal the Charlotte ordinance.

"How dare they bully other Americans and especially other municipalities," David said.

The Benhams say this is about their rights to religious liberty and freedom.

"No business owners in Charlotte or North Carolina should be forced to participate in ideas or events that are against their consciousness," David said.

RELATED: San Francisco mayor bans government travel to North Carolina

While Jackson warns of more consequences if the new law isn't repealed. The Benhams say bring it on.

"We don't need people out there like that senator to try to threaten us that some straw man exists when it doesn't," David said.

Lawmakers will be back in Raleigh on April 25.

WBTV reached out to the North Carolina Republican Party (NCGOP) about Jackson's comments. There was no reply.

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