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Sep 23, 2014

Equality NC, Human Rights Campaign to Deliver 30,000 Petitions to Pittenger

U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger (NC-09)

Organizations tell Congressman: We Will Not Stand for Workplace Discrimination

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – On Thursday, September 25, at 9 a.m., the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and Equality NC will deliver over 30,000 petitions to U.S. Representative Robert Pittenger (NC-09) at his Charlotte District Office (2701 Coltsgate Road, Suite 105, Charlotte, NC).

The petitions, signed by nationwide supporters of workplace equality, are 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.

The petition delivery follows Pittenger’s town hall remarks earlier in the month in which he told a North Carolina audience that employers should have the right to fire or refuse to hire gay and transgender workers, despite his apparent mistaken belief that these same workers are already fully protected from discrimination. Though North Carolina is one of 29 states that lacks explicit employment non-discrimination laws for LGBT people, Pittenger told the crowd, “I believe people are already protected.” Pittenger concluded by comparing the freedom to fire 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 Equality NC said the Thursday morning petition delivery is 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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