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In big shift, LGBTQ community gets Republican support on city's non-discrimination ordinance

Agreement remains uncertain, but for the first time, Democrats and Republicans on city council support protections

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Monday night Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles announced the city council will vote on a long-awaited non-discrimination ordinance in August, expanding protections to the LGBTQ community.   

For Republican Kyle Luebke, it's been a long time coming.

"We've been waiting for 6 months for a non-discrimination ordinance to be put forward in the city of Charlotte," Luebke said.  

Five years ago, Charlotte led the state in passing a non-discrimination ordinance that would protect members of the LGBTQ community from employment and housing discrimination. In a very public spat that made national headlines, republican state lawmakers limited the city's powers. Those limits expired six months ago.  

Since then, Luebke says Democrats, with a 9-2 majority on the city council, could've easily passed the protections.

"They've had the chance to do it," Luebke said.

Luebke is part of a small group of republicans who've found something that didn't exist before now: Republicans on city council supportive of gay rights and protections. They've been working with councilman Tariq Bokhari to put forward their own non-discrimination ordinance, based on conservative values of individual liberty and personal freedom.

"I was tired of being caught flat-footed and not being brought to the table as a republican in town," Bokhari said. 

Bokhari says the group is pursuing broader and more inclusive protections than the current democratic proposal. It would include protections for accommodations, employment, and housing, and it would also extend protections based on a person's natural hairstyle.

"We came together to do something that is first of its kind. And we're super proud to be on the front end of this," Bokhari said.

Still, Luebke understands his own party has a long way to go win over many in the LGBTQ community. But during this Pride Month, he's proud of the progress they're making.

"Parties change. And perspectives change."

Flashpoint is a weekly in-depth look at politics in Charlotte, North Carolina, South Carolina, and beyond with host Ben Thompson. Listen to the podcast weekly.
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