Local governments in Orange County will consider adopting new safeguards against LGBTQ discrimination this January, following the expiration of a three-year state ban blocking those protections.
In a coordinated and concerted approach, the elected leaders of Orange County and the towns of Carrboro, Chapel Hill, and Hillsborough are taking action now that the ban has expired. 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 address discrimination in core areas of life, including public spaces such as restaurants and stores, as well as employment.
On Dec. 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.
“Discrimination of any sort is wrong," said Renee Price, Chair of the Orange County Board of County Commissioners. "Here in Orange County, we are responding to the appeals for the basic human rights and civil rights that all persons deserve. These ordinances will serve to help alleviate the trauma experienced by LGBTQ family members and friends. Justice is long overdue.”
The new local anti-discrimination ordinances address gaps in protection. The ordinances cover protections for services offered in places of “public accommodation,” including stores, hotels, and businesses that supply goods or services on the premises to the public or that solicit or accept the patronage or trade of any person. The ordinances also cover protections for employment not covered by federal law. The N.C. General Assembly retains control over the regulation of multi-occupancy bathrooms.
“Having these types of non-discrimination ordinances at the local level is now allowed in 48 states,” said Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle. “In 2020, the United States Supreme Court affirmed the rights of LGBTQ people to employment free of discrimination, and the North Carolina Court of Appeals recently ruled that LGBTQ residents have the right to be provided services the same as any other member of the public.”
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 employees. All of the local governments have inclusive LGBTQ personnel and contracting policies, and their elected bodies have consistently passed resolutions affirming the dignity and rights of the LGBTQ community. There have been nine LGBTQ elected officials in Orange County, including the first gay and lesbian mayors in North Carolina.
Anti-discrimination ordinances are scheduled for review and adoption as follows:
- Hillsborough – Board of Commissioners meets at 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 11.
- Carrboro – Town Council meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 12.
- Chapel Hill – Town Council meets at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 13.
- Orange County – Board of County Commissioners meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 19.
Meeting agenda available at https://www.orangecountync.gov/1707/BOCC-Agendas.