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Sep 25, 2014

Equality NC, Human Rights Campaign Tell Pittenger: We Will Not Stand for Workplace Discrimination

Organizations deliver 30,000 petitions to Congressman’s Charlotte Office

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Sept. 25, 2014) – Today the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), HRC North Carolina, and Equality NC delivered over 30,000 petitions to the Charlotte office of U.S. Representative Robert Pittenger (NC-09). Representatives from HRC, Equality NC, Charlotte Business Guild, Charlotte Black Gay Pride, and Mecklenburg Commissioner Pat Cotham joined community members to deliver the petitions.

Equality NC's Crystal Richardson and HRC North Carolina's Scott Bishop join community leaders and local electeds to deliver 30,000 petitions to the Charlotte office of U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger.

The petitions, signed by nationwide supporters of workplace equality, were meant to send a strong message to the Republican congressman that his fellow Americans, including a large number of North Carolinians and district constituents, will not stand for employment discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) workers.

In turn, a representative from Pittenger’s office presented the organizations, community members, and media in attendance for the petition delivery with a prepared statement. In it, Pittenger defended his recent comments in opposition of what he called "additional regulations" for gays and lesbians in the workplace.

Currently, North Carolina is one of 29 states with no workplace protections for gay or transgender people.

The petition delivery follows Pittenger’s town hall remarks earlier in the month in which he told a North Carolina audience that he did not support workplace protections for gay and transgender workers, despite his apparent mistaken belief that these same workers were already protected from discrimination. Though North Carolina is one of a majority of states where employers can still fire someone for being LGBT or merely perceived as such, Pittenger told the crowd, “I believe people are already protected.” Pittenger concluded by comparing the freedom to fire or not hire LGBT employees with the ability to smoke in the workplace.

Notwithstanding evidence of an immediate backlash on Twitter, as well as a Sept. 16 Charlotte Observer editorial deriding the Congressman’s statements, Pittenger staffers had previously told the press on Sept. 17 that they’d received no negative responses about his anti-LGBT comments.

The Human Rights Campaign, and local validators HRC North Carolina and Equality NC, said the Thursday morning petition delivery was an effort to make clear to Pittenger that the vast majority of Americans support workplace protections for gay and transgender people, and his insensitive and misinformed comments will not stand.

“No American should be denied a job opportunity, fired, or discriminated against just because of their sexual orientation or gender identity," said David Stacy, HRC's Government Affairs Director. "Not only is it not in keeping with our values as Americans, but Representative Pittenger’s ill-informed opinion is also not consistent with the fair-minded opinion of most Americans. The vast majority of Americans, including North Carolinians, back common-sense workplace protections for LGBT Americans."

“Congressman Pittenger’s inflammatory remarks represent an opportunity to make clear one simple fact: hardworking gay and transgender people of North Carolina are not “already protected” from workplace discrimination,” said Chris Sgro, executive director of Equality NC. “With these petitions, we bring with us sobering portraits of widespread discrimination faced by gay and transgender people in the workplace. We not only demand that Pittenger, a former businessman himself, recant his comments, but also join with the majority of North Carolinians and North Carolina business leaders, to ask that he and other politicians act quickly and update state and federal policies to include workplace protections for our gay and transgender friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers. “

The petition, launched on September 12, states in part: “I am writing to express my outrage at your recent comments that businesses should have the "freedom" to fire or refuse to hire lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. Firing someone based on their sexual orientation or gender identity isn't freedom--it's discrimination. As you know, North Carolina is one of 29 states that lacks statewide employment protections for LGBT people. Although you have expressed strong opposition to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), the American public is ready to crack down on workplace inequality--and we have the support of the Senate. Congressman Pittenger, equality-minded Americans will no longer tolerate outdated, discriminatory views from our elected officials.”

The full petition can be found here: http://bit.ly/1x0Jl1j

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