Following the expiration of a three-year state ban blocking LGBTQ protections, local governments in Orange County will consider adopting new safeguards against LGBTQ discrimination at their respective meetings this week.
On December 1, 2020, a key provision of House Bill 142 expired, restoring the authority of local governments in North Carolina to adopt ordinances protecting LGBTQ residents from discrimination. House Bill 142 was the North Carolina legislation that replaced the anti-LGBTQ House Bill 2 in 2017.
In a coordinated approach, Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle said the elected leaders of Orange County and the towns of Carrboro, Chapel Hill, and Hillsborough are ready to take action now that the ban has expired.
“As of December, a prohibition on any local governments passing non-discrimination ordinances expired,” Lavelle said. “While there are no statewide protections covering certain groups of folks such as gay, lesbian and transgender people, local governments now are able to pass local ordinances. So, we have been organizing an effort among all of the jurisdictions in Orange County to come forward with all of our ordinances at the same time.”
Each jurisdiction will consider new anti-discrimination protections at the local level. The comprehensive protections will cover numerous categories, including sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. The ordinances will also address discrimination in core areas of life, including public spaces like restaurants and stores, as well as employment.
Lavelle said these new, local anti-discrimination ordinances are meant to address gaps in protection for residents.
“Existing federal laws and existing state laws don’t cover every situation for every group of people,” Lavelle said. “So, what we have tried to do in these laws we have drafted, at least for the Town of Carrboro, is we’ve tried to think of all of the different groups that are not currently covered under any laws that we have. We’ve tried to make the list pretty expansive.”
Historically, Orange County, Carrboro, Chapel Hill, and Hillsborough have been home to the most progressive LGBTQ policies in North Carolina, and were among the first in the state to have domestic partner registries and to offer domestic partner benefits to town employees.
According to a report recently issued by the nation’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization, the Human Rights Campaign, the Towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro are trailblazing the way forward on LGBTQ inclusion despite a lack of state-level protections.
North Carolina is one of 13 states that don’t treat crimes based on gender identity or sexual orientation as hate crimes. The state has limited protections for transgender people, and it only recently outlawed the use of taxpayer dollars for “conversion therapy” practices —which are still legal in the state.
Local anti-discrimination ordinances are scheduled for review and adoption at the Hillsborough Board of Commissioners meeting Monday, Carrboro’s Town Council meeting on Tuesday and Chapel Hill’s Town Council meeting on Wednesday.
For more information on scheduled meetings, click here.
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