Charlotte Pride, a leading LGBT pride organization in Charlotte, North Carolina, has listed a child sex offender as the recipient of its 2023 Harvey Milk Award for exceptional “LGBT+” advocacy.
Chad Sevearance-Turner, a former music minister who served years in prison for sexually abusing a minor boy, will receive the award this year, with the group praising him as an “influential advocate for LGBT+ issues,” Reduxx reported.
Sevearance-Turner and several other honorees, who were dubbed “Champions of Pride” on Charlotte Pride’s website, will be honored as part of this year’s Charlotte Pride festival, scheduled for the weekend of August 19 and 20.
Sevearance-Turner, 45, is president and chief executive officer at the Carolinas LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce, a nonprofit that “supports LGBT+ and allied businesses” in North and South Carolina.
He was accused by three minor boys of sexual abuse in 1998 when he was 20, all three of whom he met through his position as music director for New Harvest Church of God in Gaffney, South Carolina, according to a 2000 report from GoUpstate.com.
The three boys’ accusations were tried in three separate cases.
The first case involved a 14-year-old boy who testified that he spent the night with Sevearance-Turner at one of the other victims’ houses and awoke to Sevearance-Turner fondling his genitals. The boy also testified that Sevearance-Turner invited him to spend the night at his house, and when he did, Sevearance-Turner asked him how he would feel about a man performing oral sex on him.
“I thought he was joking,” the boy told the court at the time.
The child said Sevearance-Turner’s questions about sexual acts were upsetting because of his position in the church.
The second boy, who was 15 at the time of the alleged incident, testified that Sevearance-Turner invited him to his house and showed him a pornographic video of sex between a man and woman. The boy went to sleep in the same bed as Sevearance-Turner and awoke to Sevearance-Turner fondling him, the child said.
“He told me if I ever told the pastor, he’d make me look like a fool and a liar,” the boy said.
The third boy, who was also 15 when he said the incident happened, said Sevearance-Turner made the same advances to him when he stayed at the boy’s home for three weeks and fondled him multiple times.
Sevearance-Turner’s defense attorney Thomas Shealy accused the boys at the time of a “Salem witch hunt” against their alleged abuser.
Sevearance-Turner was eventually convicted in 2000 of performing a lewd act on a minor under 16 and sentenced to ten years in prison. He served just two years before being released on parole.
He is currently listed on the North Carolina sex offender registry.
Charlotte Pride called the registered sex offender a “highly accomplished leader in human resources” whose career has been “driven by a deep commitment to promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).”
Charlotte Pride did not respond to a request for comment about whether Sevearance-Turner’s award will be rescinded or whether the group was aware of his child sex offender status when it decided to honor him.
Last week though, Sevearance-Turner posted about his award on LinkedIn.
“I am also humbled to be listed with these amazing humans who do so much great work for our region,” Sevearance-Turner wrote.
His employer congratulated him as well.
Sevearance-Turner has been recognized frequently for his LGBT advocacy work. He was appointed by Charlotte’s mayor to serve on the city’s business advisory committee this year, according to Charlotte Pride. LGBT newspaper QNotes named him their “Person of the Year” in 2015. He has also mingled with North Carolina’s political brass — Democrat Governor Roy Cooper was photographed standing next to Sevearance-Turner at a gala in 2019.
The Harvey Milk Award, named for the famous gay activist in 1970s San Francisco, is presented every year “to honor exceptional leadership, service to the community, and those who champion LGBTQ causes that impact the Charlotte community and beyond,” according to Charlotte Pride.
The 2023 Charlotte Pride festival has sponsorships from Amazon, McDonalds, Bank of America, Bud Light, Lowe’s, NASCAR, and Krispy Kreme, among other major companies.
This is not the first time Sevearance-Turner’s child sex offender status has been unearthed while in a position of influence.
In 2016, Sevearance-Turner resigned as president of Charlotte’s LGBT Chamber of Commerce after his child sex offender conviction became known. He said at the time that his past had not stopped him from being successful.
At the time, Sevearance-Turner was at the forefront of a push for North Carolina to allow trans-identifying men to use women’s bathrooms.
“No one who is a convicted sex offender should be leading a campaign to allow men to be in women’s bathrooms and showers,” the leader of the NC Values Coalition, who sounded the alarm about the child sex offender, said at the time. “It’s just common sense.”