The Charlotte City Council may pass a nondiscrimination ordinance next week to protect LGBTQ residents.
More than five years after HB2 made North Carolina the face of anti-LGBTQ+ policy in the US, the state’s largest city is likely days away from providing greater protections for its LGBTQ+ residents.
This week, City Council members in Charlotte met to iron out details of an updated nondiscrimination ordinance, which would be expanded to cover sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and natural hairstyles like afros and twists.
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The ordinance mainly addresses discrimination in housing, public accommodations, and employment. Companies with fewer than 15 employees would be held to the same standard as large corporations when it relates to discrimination complaints. Charlotte has about 13,300 small businesses with fewer than 15 employees.
It’s full circle from HB2, which passed in 2016 and overturned local statutes prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation. The Republican-led bill also barred transgender people from using bathrooms that align with their gender identity. The move cost the state $3.76 billion in revenue from cancelled contracts: a scuttled Paypal facility, the NBA All-Star game, and major arena concerts. HB2’s prohibitions expired in December 2020.
More Than Feel-Good Measures
If approved on Aug. 9, Charlotte will join Durham, Asheville, Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Apex and Hillsborough in again protecting LGBTQ+ people from discrimination. These protections are more than feel-good measures.
“There are a lot of bigots in healthcare, landlords, bosses, who will stop you from accessing basic human rights just because they don’t like who you are. Now I can have my case in court if I’m being discriminated against because of who I am,” Tiz Giordano, a frontline grocery worker from Chapel Hill told Cardinal & Pine.
Giordano said the NDO makes them feel safer, “like a weight has been lifted off my back that I didn’t know existed.”
Many Americans don’t realize the depth of discrimination faced by LGBTQ+ citizens.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll, released in 2019 on the 50th anniversary of New York’s Stonewall riots that birthed the modern LGBTQ rights movement, found that the majority of Americans incorrectly believed gay people were federally protected against discrimination.
The National LGBTQ Task Force found Black transgender and gender non-conforming people face the highest levels of discrimination, with a staggering 26% unemployment rate, 34% earning less than $10,000 annually, and 41% having experienced homelessness.
This April, two Black trans women, Jaida Peterson and Remy Ferrell, were murdered in Charlotte, prompting the Human Rights Campaign to name the city one of the deadliest places in the US for transgender people.
Advocates like Tina White, the executive director of Asheville’s Blue Ridge Pride, say NDOs make towns safer for LGBTQ+ people.
“It has a huge impact on safety. When you’re on the playground and the bully rules it, that does not feel safe for anyone but the bully. But when the law steps in and says we protect our people, that sends a message across the playground that people can feel safe. Absent that, people live in fear,” White told Cardinal & Pine. “Ordinances like this, it’s your community stepping forward and saying ‘no, we won’t tolerate this and we have your back.’ And it may not be perfectly enforced but that’s an important statement that people need to hear.”
Giordano seconded that assertion.
“I know these laws can’t create actual safety, but LGBTQ youth looking up to us know they have the right to access the same opportunities as their non-LGBTQ peers. It’s saving their lives.”
Charlotte’s ordinance would go into effect Jan. 1, 2022.