On Monday, Charlotte, North Carolina’s city council unanimously voted to pass an ordinance that extends nondiscrimination protections to LGBT people.
The new ordinance protects several new classes from discrimination in employment, public accommodations, and passenger vehicles for hire and procurement. It prohibits discrimination against individuals on the basis of familial status, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, veteran status, pregnancy, and natural hairstyles.
These protections come five years after Charlotte had initially tried to expand protections for LGBT residents but ultimately failed. The city had passed a measure allowing transgender people to use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity. However, the state of North Carolina blocked this expansion by passing House Bill 2, or the “bathroom bill,” which prohibited trans people from using the bathroom that matches their gender identity. HB2 also prevented cities across North Carolina from passing nondiscrimination ordinances.
In 2017, House Bill 2 was repealed by a replacement law after sparking national controversy. The new law, however, prevented cities from passing nondiscrimination ordinances until December of 2020.
“The nation took notice then,” Erin Barbee of the Carolinas LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce said. “And the nation will take notice now.”
Charlotte’s public accommodation protections will go into effect on October 1, while the employment protections will go into effect on January 1.
Under the ordinance, employers cannot refuse to hire someone based on any of the new protected classes. While state and federal laws mandate these protections for employers with 15 or more employees, the city ordinance is applicable to employers with less than 15 employees as well.
“Leaders across North Carolina—including our U.S. Senators from NC—should look at what’s happening in our state: Communities are taking a stand to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination, which leads to safer, more inclusive places to live, work, and raise families,” said Allison Scott, Director of Impact and Innovation at the Campaign for Southern Equality, in a statement.
According to a Human Rights Campaign annual report, Charlotte is the second-worst city across the nation in terms of anti-trans violence.
“Charlotte is the second most dangerous city in the country for transgender and gender non-conforming people—especially Black transgender women,” said community outreach director for Charlotte Black Pride, Rell Lowery, in a statement. “With today’s vote, the Charlotte City Council committed to making the city a safer place to live and work for LGBTQ people and people of color.”
“It’s time now to ensure that no LGBTQ North Carolinian is left vulnerable to discrimination,” Scott said, “and that will require action from elected officials at every level of government.”
Sources: NBC News 8/10/21; City of Charlotte 8/10/21; The Charlotte Observer 8/10/21; Equality North Carolina 8/10/21; Axios 4/19/21