Charlotte Pride, a prominent LGBT pride organization in Charlotte, North Carolina, has stirred controversy by selecting a registered child sex offender, Chad Sevearance-Turner, as the recipient of its 2023 Harvey Milk Award for exceptional “LGBT+” advocacy. Sevearance-Turner, who previously served time in prison for sexually abusing a minor boy, is now the president and CEO of the Carolinas LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce, a nonprofit that supports LGBT+ and allied businesses in the region.
The decision to honor Sevearance-Turner has sparked outrage, with critics questioning the organization’s judgment and values. Despite his past conviction and listing on the North Carolina sex offender registry, Charlotte Pride hailed Sevearance-Turner as an “influential advocate for LGBT+ issues” and highlighted his work in promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).
Sevearance-Turner’s history involves accusations from three different minor boys, all of whom he met through his role as a music director at a church. His trial resulted in a conviction for performing a lewd act on a minor under 16, leading to a 10-year prison sentence. However, he served only two years before being released on parole. This background has raised questions about his fitness for advocacy and leadership positions within the LGBT community.
Charlotte Pride’s decision to bestow the Harvey Milk Award on Sevearance-Turner has raised concerns about the organization’s vetting process for awardees. Some argue that an individual with a child sex offender history should not be celebrated in the context of advocating for social justice and equality. The situation also highlights a potential tension between supporting LGBT rights and upholding standards of personal conduct.
Sevearance-Turner’s past conviction resurfaced in 2016, leading to his resignation as president of Charlotte’s LGBT Chamber of Commerce. At that time, his involvement in advocating for allowing transgender individuals to use bathrooms of their chosen gender also attracted criticism. This recent recognition by Charlotte Pride has reignited the debate about whether a convicted sex offender should be in positions of influence and leadership within advocacy organizations.