Charlotte Pride now says no one will be awarded the 2023 Harvey Milk award for exceptional “LGBT+” advocacy after the announced winner’s past as a convicted child sex offender came to light.
“We do not give every single award out every year. Charlotte Pride was originally going to do Harvey Milk, but upon further discussion, decided not to give out that award this year,” the leading Charlotte, North Carolina, LGBT organization told local outlet WSOC on Friday.
The group did not detail what led to the decision not to give out the Harvey Milk Award after all.
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 quickly scrubbed Sevearance-Turner’s name from its website page listing this year’s “Champions of Pride” award winners after his child sex offense conviction came to light.
However, an archived version of the page shows him listed.
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.