Charlotte Pride has awarded a gay child sex offender with the 2023 Harvey Milk Award for exceptional LGBTQ advocacy. Chad Sevearance Turner, a former youth minister, was accused by three boys of sexual abuse in 1998, and convicted on one count.
According to a GoUpstate report on the case from 2000, there were initially three minor victims who came forward, all of whom had met Turner through his position as the music director at the New Harvest Church of God in Gaffney, South Carolina. The cases were tried separately due to the nature of the charges, and Turner was ultimately only convicted on one offense.
Of the incidents Turner was convicted on, a 14-year-old boy had testified that Turner had invited him to spend the night at his house in the nearby community of Bessemer City, North Carolina. The victim stated 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 boy told the court. He explained that Turner frequently questioned him about sexual acts between men and women, which upset him because of the man’s position in the church. The victim continued that, following a revival meeting, he and Turner stayed overnight at the home of one of the other alleged victims.
The teen says he awoke to find Turner fondling his genitals, but didn’t immediately report it due to shame.
The second minor, who said he was 15 when the incident occurred, stated he was invited to Turner’s home where the older man showed him a pornographic video of a man and a woman having sex. He then said that later that night, after he and Turner went to sleep in the same bed, he woke up to find the Turner fondling him.
The third alleged victim, who was also 15 at the time, said Turner had made the same advances to him over a three-week period when he stayed in the boy’s home. The minor said Turner had fondled him several times.
“He told me if I ever told the pastor, he’d make me look like a fool and a liar,” the boy said.
During the trial, Turner’s defense attorney, Thomas Shealy, accused the boys of perpetrating a “witch hunt,” and asserted that it was suspicious that there was a few month delay between them being sexually abused and them going to their parents.
Turner was ultimately convicted on the charges related to the first victim, and sentenced to 10 years in prison for committing lewd acts on a minor under the age of 16. He served 2 years behind bars before being released on parole and being ordered to the sex offender registry.
Since being released from prison, Turner has become an active and notable member of the Charlotte LGBTQ advocacy community.
In 2012, Turner was elected the president of the LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce, immediately heading efforts to push for an expanded “nondiscrimination” ordinance which many complained would have prevented businesses from maintaining spaces such as washrooms as single-sex.
He was named “Person of the Year” by LGBT news outlet QNotes in March of 2015, but would resign from his Chamber of Commerce post in 2016 after his history as a child sex offender came to light. The month prior, the “nondiscrimination” ordinance was passed, and Turner was awarded an honor by the Human Rights Campaign at their annual gala. HRC officials refused to state whether or not they were aware of his child sex offender status prior to giving him the award.
Despite his previous resignation, Turner would once again join the LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce as its inaugural CEO in 2021. Under his leadership, the Chamber secured partnerships with prominent organizations like 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.
Reduxx has now learned that Turner has been awarded the 2023 Harvey Milk Award by Charlotte Pride.
The award is said to be presented “to an individual to honor exceptional leadership, service to the community, and those who champion LGBTQ causes that impact the Charlotte community and beyond.”
Turner now has 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.
According to his award biography: “Chad’s dedication to a more inclusive and equitable marketplace and workplace within the Carolinas has led to a vibrant region where people of all backgrounds feel valued and have a voice.”
Reduxx 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.
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