Several months ago, we summoned a group of Young Republicans to embark on a mission. We knew a non-discrimination order was going to be back in Charlotte. As Charlotte Republicans, we were tired of not being invited to the table. We were tired of being presented with the wrong policy at the last moment and then being portrayed as the party of no, as the party of exclusion.
We set to work with a simple goal: how could we use conservative principles to have a proactive stance on the NDO? After all, our fundamentals define our party. Limited government with a heart. Lower taxes while funding sustainable solutions for the little ones among us. Always operating under the rule of law, while recognizing that not all laws are perfect. It becomes much more difficult to take a stand when you need to align yourself with unshakeable principles, but it is in this challenge that our unique strength lies.
Then, we found the ideal solution, in the principle which is most dear to us, to guide our NDO position: freedom.
In this, we found the opportunity to be more expansive in our NDO proposal than had ever been attempted in Charlotte. We started from the simple premise that individual freedom manifests itself in the marketplace in the form of either expressive behavior or Standard behaviour. From the premise follow some striking conclusions. On the one hand, forcing a baker whose activity consists of adopting an expressive and personalized behavior to bake a cake by transmitting a message that he finds reprehensible infringes individual freedom. On the other hand, not allowing a gay couple to eat in a restaurant with a standard menu because of their identity, or refusing to rent an apartment to a transgender person because they are trans, violated their freedom.
By applying these basic principles, we were able to create a simple yet powerful NDO language that protects the freedom not only of our LGBTQ + community, but also of our black community through the inclusion of a natural hairstyle. Our prescription language is unique because of its breadth. Most NDOs adopted in North Carolina since January only include protections in public housing and employment. Our language extends to essential housing protections.
We also have strong protections for religious individuals and organizations. In a pluralistic society, we must ensure that the exercise of our individual freedoms does not infringe on the liberty and liberty of others. That is why we have incorporated language that explicitly prohibits the government from forcing expressive speech or conduct in violation of the Constitution. We also made it clear that no religious organization should be forced to hire someone who does not adhere to tenants of that religious organization, in accordance with Supreme Court case law.
Once our work was done, we went on a dialogue tour with our side of the aisle. We received thoughtful challenges and logical pushbacks that ended up making the end product even better.
Will all Republicans agree with this conclusion? No. But we’ve done enough homework to make sure our point of principle is sound. And while we hope that one day soon this type of order will no longer be necessary, today it is a reasonable and principled approach.
Tariq Bokhari is a member of the Charlotte City Council. Kyle Luebke is a member of the board of directors of the Young Republicans of Mecklenburg County and vice-chair of The Plus Collective – Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s LGBTQ + Community Fund.