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Sep 26, 2014

Equality NC, Human Rights Campaign Respond to Released Audio of Pittenger Comments

Organizations Release Joint Statement

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Sept. 26, 2014) – Friday, after the office of U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger (NC-09) denied the Congressman had made outrageous statements comparing the right to smoke on private property with a right to discriminate against LGBT people in the workplace, ThinkProgress released recorded audio of the Congressman’s offensive statements.

The recording directly contradicts the office’s denials and clearly demonstrates that at the town hall event in Ballantyne, NC, in response to the question, “Do you think businesses should be able to fire someone because they are gay or lesbian?” He replied that businesses should have the “autonomy” to fire workers for being LGBT, compared it with a right to smoke on private property, and asked: “Why should government be there to impose on the freedoms we enjoy?”

The audio was released a day after the Human Rights Campaign and Equality NC delivered 30,000 petitions in protest of these statements from Pittenger, as well as inaccurate comments that implied protections already exist for gay workers.

The same day, North Carolina media reported that Pittenger's office had denied he made the comments. Local channel WSOC-TV told audiences: ‘The congressman’s office insists he never made the divisive statement…Pittenger told [ThinkProgress] he does not support the employment non-discrimination act and the blogger ran with it.” The office repeated the denial to MSNBC, saying: “His opposition to ENDA was ‘translated’ into ‘firing gays’ by that blogger,” Pittenger staffer Jamie Bowers wrote in an email to MSNBC on Friday.

In response to the audio recording, Equality NC and the Human Rights Campaign released the following joint statement: “Members of Congress have an obligation to be honest with their constituents and the American people. Rep. Robert Pittenger has failed that essential qualification for office, with audio evidence to prove it.

Beyond the dishonest representations of Rep. Pittenger’s statements by his staff, the underlying issue remains. Hardworking lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in North Carolina and across the United States face the daily threat of being fired from their job just because of who they are or who they love.

As the Congressman said himself in a statement released by his office, ‘hiring decisions should be based on the merits of the individual.’ We could not agree more.

We should all follow the Golden Rule and treat others as we’d like to be treated. This means everyone should have the opportunity to earn a living and provide for their families, including gay and transgender Americans, and be judged on their talents and job performance. No one should be fired based solely on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Yet Congressman Pittenger does not support any legislation to protect LGBT workers from job discrimination, leaving North Carolina LGBT families vulnerable and at risk. And he can’t even own up to or apologize for his demeaning and dismissive comments. We urge Congressman Pittenger to acknowledge his own words and make a commitment to learn more about the realities of workplace discrimination and the dire need for workplace protections for our LGBT friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers on the state and federal level.”

ABOUT HRC: The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

ABOUT EQUALITY NC: Equality NC is the statewide organization working to secure equal rights and justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender North Carolinians. 

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