Local Politics

Raleigh asking City Council candidates about sexual orientation

Posted July 7, 2020 4:40 p.m. EDT
Updated July 7, 2020 8:23 p.m. EDT

— More than a dozen people have already applied for an open seat on the Raleigh City Council, but some are questioning the portion of the city's application where they have to state their sexual orientation.

The only requirements for someone to run for the District D seat is that they be 21 or older, live in the district and be registered to vote in Wake County.

But the application also seeks information about each person's ethnicity, personal and professional background and whether they identify as LGBT.

"It struck me as a bit limiting, restricting sexual orientation with a three-option dropdown menu," said Scott Richardson, a 29-year-old digital marketer who applied for the position. "I think I would have preferred a broader question that left it up to the candidates what personal information that they did want to share about themselves."

The District D seat opened up last month when Councilman Saige Martin resigned amid sexual misconduct allegations. Martin was among the council's first openly gay members, and Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin said the city wants to continue promoting diversity on the council.

"That will be an important consideration for me, but not the only consideration," Baldwin said. "I think the intention is let's get the best pool of candidates from which to choose, and let's also consider diversity."

The city also included a sexual orientation question on the application for a police advisory board, she noted.

The mayor said the sexual orientation question was never meant to exclude any applicants. Still, it could be awkward for some applicants who want their credentials viewed fairly by the council.

"Sexual orientation shouldn’t have anything to do with your ability to govern," Richardson said. "Certainly, it can shape your world view, but I don’t think it has anything to do with your abilities or your potential, specifically as it pertains to serving your constituents."

While some applicants answered "yes" to the question and some said they preferred not to answer, Richardson said he answered "no" and said he hopes that doesn't hurt his chances.

"I'm not a member of the LGBTQ community. I would consider myself an ally and an advocate," he said.

The application deadline for the District D seat is 4 p.m. Friday. City Council members plan to invite five applicants to a virtual candidate forum at 3 p.m. Sunday and then pick someone to fill the rest of Martin's two-year term at a July 14 meeting.

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