Charlotte Pride has awarded a child sex offender, with the 2023 Harvey Milk Award for “exceptional LGBTQ advocacy.” Chad Sevearance Turner, a prominent gay activist for transgender rights in Charlotte, North Carolina was working as a youth minister when he was accused by three boys of sexual abuse.
According to a GoUpstate report on the case from 2000, three minor boys came forward and made allegations against Turner in 1998. Each boy met Turner through his position as the music director at the New Harvest Church of God in Gaffney, South Carolina. Each case was tried separately due to the nature of the charges.
According to testimony from his victims, Turner demonstrated a similar pattern of action in each of the abuses, reportedly fondling the minors without consent during sleepovers. One of the incidents occurred at Turner’s home in the nearby community of Bessemer City, North Carolina, and two are stated to have taken place at the victim’s houses.
One of the alleged victims, who was 15 at the time, reported that Turner had brought him to his home where he showed him a pornographic video and fondled his genitals after he had fallen asleep.
Another alleged victim, who was also 15, said Turner had made advances to him over a three-week period. During one of his visits to Gaffney, Turner stayed in the boy’s home. The minor said Turner had fondled him several times during the stay.
“He told me if I ever told the pastor, he’d make me look like a fool and a liar,” the boy said.
Despite three victims coming forward, Turner was ultimately only convicted on one count related to the sexual abuse of a 14-year-old boy.
The victim testified that Turner had invited him to spend the night at his house, and that during the visit Turner had questioned him on how he’d feel about a man performing oral sex on him.
“I thought he was joking,” the youth said. The boy further explained that Turner frequently asked him about sexual acts between men and women, which upset him because of the man’s position in the church.
Later, following a revival meeting with the church, he and Turner stayed overnight at the home of one of the other alleged victims. He and Turner slept in the same bed and, during the night, the boy awoke to find Turner fondling his genitals. The victim was initially hesitant to tell his parents due to shame, stating: “I thought there was something bad about me.”
During the trial, Turner’s defense attorney, Thomas Shealy, accused the boys of perpetuating a “witch hunt,” stating they had developed their stories together to conspire against Turner. He argued that it was suspicious that there was a few month delay between them being sexually abused and then deciding to tell their parents. This is despite the fact that, according to criminal justice system statistics, 2 out of 3 sexual assaults go unreported in the United States.
When questioned on why they chose to come forward, one of the boys stated that he had become upset after the church pastor announced that Turner was getting a raise and praised him during a service.
“He gave a speech talking about how good a person Chad was, and Chad wasn’t a good person at all,” the boy said.
Turner was convicted of the crime against the 14-year-old victim and sentenced to 10 years in prison. However, he only served two years in custody before being released on parole. He was then ordered to the sex offender registry.
Since being released from prison, Turner has become an active and “esteemed” member of the Charlotte LGBTQ advocacy community.
After becoming president of Charlotte’s LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce (CLGBTCC), Turner led his team to expand a “non-discrimination ordinance” which would have prevented businesses from keeping facilities such as bathrooms and locker rooms single-sex.
He received multiple honors for his work at CLGBTCC, including being named Person of the Year by Qnotes Carolinas.
But Turner resigned from his Chamber of Commerce post in 2016 after his history as a child sex offender came to light. Just one month prior, the “non-discrimination ordinance” was passed, causing Turner to be awarded an honor by the Human Rights Campaign at their annual gala. HRC officials refused to state whether or not they were aware of Turner’s past prior to presenting him with the award.
Melissa Morris would ultimately take over Turner’s position as President of the CLGBTCC board, admitting that the Chamber had been fully aware of Turner’s past. But Morris argued that his history of sexually abusing minors was “irrelevant to his work in the organization”
Despite his previous resignation, Turner would join the LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce as its inaugural CEO in 2021. Since then, the Chamber has secured partnerships with well-known organizations such as Fifth Third Bank, NASCAR, Duke Energy, Wells Fargo, Sonoco, and Novant Health.
In July of 2023, Turner was appointed by Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles to serve on the city’s Business Advisory Committee.
As first reported by pro-woman outlet Reduxx, Turner has now been awarded the 2023 Harvey Milk Award by Charlotte Pride. The award boasts that it is to be given to a person “to honor exceptional leadership, service to the community, and those who champion LGBTQ causes that impact the Charlotte community and beyond.”
According to Reduxx, Charlotte Pride featured a “glowing profile” on Charlotte Pride’s website, but his history of child sex abuse and his turbulent resignation from the LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce is not mentioned.
The Publica reached out to Charlotte Pride with an inquiry as to whether they were aware of Turner’s history prior to honoring him with the Harvey Milk Award, but did not receive a response in time for publication. This article may be updated in the event they choose to comment.