CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Charlotte has narrowly rejected a measure protecting people from discrimination because of their sexual orientation.
The City Council voted Monday night 6-5 against expanding the city's nondiscrimination ordinance to include sexual orientation, gender expression and gender identity to a list of protected groups.
It also would have prohibited discrimination based on someone's marital and familial status.
Before the vote, the council removed a section of the ordinance that would have allowed transgendered people to use the bathroom in which they feel most comfortable. That provision had been the focus of radio ads and thousands of phone messages in which ordinance opponents say letting biological males use women's bathrooms could endanger women and children.
A coalition of gay rights groups Tuesday condemned the vote, saying similar protections have been adopted by more than 200 local governments across the country, including many in the Carolinas: Raleigh, Winston-Salem in North Carolina and Charleston and Myrtle Beach in South Carolina.
The Charlotte Non-Discrimination Ordinance Coalition said the decision "moves the city backward not forward and shows a continued lack of commitment to fair treatment of all its citizens and residents."
"This coalition will not stop lobbying Council for these changes and will bring them back to city leaders for future consideration," said Jen Jones, the group's communication director.
The vote in North Carolina's largest city took place after a few hours of emotional debate. One-hundred-twenty people signed up to speak two minutes either for or against the measure. Before the meeting, supporters and opponents held rallies.
Among America's 20 largest cities, only three - Charlotte; Memphis, Tennessee; and Jacksonville, Florida — are without the kind of nondiscrimination ordinance that came before the Charlotte City Council.