Comments were made in exchange with LGBTQ advocate Ed Farthing over candlelight vigil; councilman reiterates remarks in an interview
By Michael M. Barrick
HICKORY, N.C. – While the candlelight vigil held here on Monday evening at Union Square for the victims of the Orlando terrorist attack upon a gay night club was a moment of unity and community empathy, a Hickory City Councilman’s response to an invitation to the vigil was arguably the opposite.
Ed Farthing, a Hickory attorney and gay rights activist, sent an email invitation to all Hickory City Council members, the mayor and city manager, to attend the vigil. Farthing also referenced North Carolina House Bill 2 (HB2) when sending out the invitation.
In an email, Councilman Vernon Tarlton, who represents Ward 2, called Farthing a “bastard.” In an interview this morning, he reiterated that statement.
Since HB2 was passed, Farthing and other LGBTQ activists and allies have asked the Hickory City Council to condemn the bill. Council has refused. Farthing explained, “The City Council did nothing, which I consider ascent.”
So, after the candlelight vigil was scheduled, Farthing issued the email invitation. He wrote, “HB2 continues to wreak havoc – words and actions matter – the rhetoric around HB2 is divisive as is the rhetoric of one of the Presidential campaigns and a gubernatorial campaign in NC – and I’m a Republican, former chair of the Catawba County Board of Elections under Jim Holshouser – if you can’t see fit to condemn HB2, maybe you would see fit to honor the victims (of) HB2, and other divisive actions, killed and maimed.”
Tarlton replied to Farthing’s invitation, “You are obviously the most insecure and insensitive person I have ever known. For you to imply that we had anything to do with this massacre is totally insane! Your agenda knows no bounds! You are a total lunatic and heretofore your emails will go straight to my spam folder. Therefore your participation in any discussion will be ignored!!!!! You Bastard.”
In an interview, Tarlton acknowledged he should have responded to Farthing differently, but added, “Calling him a bastard is not a stretch.”
Farthing countered, “I think Orlando is not a direct result of HB2 in North Carolina, but the rhetoric around it hurts.” He added, “Since HB2 was passed, there has been an uptick of violence against the LGBTQ community. The number of calls to suicide lines by transgendered youth has doubled.” He continued, “Actions and words have consequences. If the city council did not see fit to condemn HB2, maybe they could at least attend the vigil to honor the victims.”
Tarlton said he did not attend the vigil because, “I didn’t feel like I’d be welcome with all the lies being said about me. I was mourning, I just wasn’t mourning there.” He added that he has no animosity towards those in the LGBTQ community, emphasizing, “I mean that from the bottom of my heart.”
Calling him a bastard is not a stretch.”—Hickory City Councilman Vernon Tarlton about Hickory attorney Edwin Farthing
Tarlton explained, “I get this email saying I am responsible. I always respected him, but this email really rubbed me the wrong way.” Yet, he admitted, “I chose the wrong forum.” Asked what he had learned from the exchange, he said, “Not to be as quick to make a statement in the heat of the moment.”
Asked if he supported HB2, he said, “I don’t support it in every way but I am not a fan of single gender bathrooms.” He acknowledged, “To be honest, I have not read the whole bill, so I’ll stop there because I’d be speaking from hearsay.”
He concluded, “I just want to wish everybody well. It is not a time to yell at each other though I did online. I’m sorry I chose that route.”
Otherwise known as the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, HB2 was passed by the Republican-controlled North Carolina General Assembly and signed by Governor Pat McCrory, also a Republican, on March 23. The bill, which was passed in a one-day special session called by GOP leaders, repeals an ordinance passed in February by the Charlotte City Council.
The Charlotte ordinance provided new legal protections for those in the LGBTQ community, including allowing transgender people to use a men’s or women’s bathroom based upon the gender with which they identify. In response to the legislature’s actions, national organizations and businesses immediately began boycotting the state. It also galvanized the LGBTQ community and its allies.
It is expected to be a major campaign issue in the governor’s race as well as state Senate and House races.
© The Lenoir Voice, 2016
On Twitter: @lenoirvoice