The city council of Charlotte, North Carolina, passed a controversial non-discrimination ordinance on Monday that includes allowing transgenders to use restrooms that correspond to their gender identity, dismissing concerns raised by Christian protesters.
People packed the Charlotte government centre including many who were opposed to the ordinance. More than 21,000 residents signed a petition against the ordinance, aimed at adding "marital status, familial status, sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression to the list of protected characteristics in the commercial non-discrimination and passenger vehicles for hire ordinance" and public accommodation.
About 140 residents spoke before the city council to air their side on the ordinance.
A coalition consisting of pastors and community leaders rallied outside the centre carrying signs including "Don't Do It Charlotte" to show their opposition.
Christian opponents cited the Bible in their plea to the city council.
"By what standards are you considering this ordinance tonight? God's Word or man's flawed reasoning? Will we be like Adam and Eve in the garden and decide morality for ourselves, or will we obey God?" said Sean Brinza, according to the Christian News Network. "Psalm 2 says, 'Be wise, you kings. Be instructed, you judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling.' ... I plead with you to repent and turn to Jesus."
Mark Metzger said, "We as the faith community know and understand well our duty to love our LGBT neighbours, and we will continue to do our best—flawed as it may be—to show kindness to them. However, it will always be with tough love that speaks the truth that the Bible clearly condemns the LGBT lifestyle."
He added, "It is God's Word that warns us that our hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked, and that following our heart is dangerous and destructive."
Bethany Chandler told transgenders, "I know your hearts are filled with turmoil, friends, but peace will never be found by pursuing your heart. True freedom is only found in surrender to Jesus. It's the most beautiful paradox. I urge you, find peace in Him and His forgiveness. Jesus was nailed to a cross to offer you this freedom. Please take it, friends."
But despite the pleas, the city council voted 7-4 to pass the ordinance.
Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts said she was "pleased that Charlotte has sent a signal that we will treat people with dignity and respect, even when we disagree."
But North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory vowed to overturn the ordinance.
"It is not only the citizens of Charlotte that will be impacted by changing basic restroom and locker room norms but also citizens from across our state and nation who visit and work in Charlotte," he said.
He said the "action of allowing a person with male anatomy, for example, to use a female restroom or locker room will most likely cause immediate state legislative intervention which I would support as governor."
"The Charlotte City Council has gone against all common sense and has created a major public safety issue by opening all bathrooms and changing rooms to the general public," House Speaker Tim Moore told the Charlotte Observer.
"This ordinance is impossible to regulate as intended, and creates undue regulatory burdens on private businesses. I join my conservative colleagues and Gov. McCrory in exploring legislative intervention."