Last vestige of NC's notorious HB2 - ban on local nondiscrimination ordinances - quietly ends
Posted December 2, 2020 6:31 p.m. EST
Updated December 2, 2020 7:12 p.m. EST
Raleigh, N.C. — North Carolina cities and towns can once again pass local anti-discrimination ordinances after a statewide ban on such laws expired Wednesday.
The ban goes back to House Bill 2, the 2016 state law that brought international notoriety to North Carolina by dictating which public bathrooms transgender individuals could use.
A provision in the law, which was partially repealed a year later, prohibited cities and counties from passing ordinances protecting LGBTQ people – or any group, such as pregnant women or veterans – from discrimination.
Allison Scott, director of policy and programs for the Campaign for Southern Equality, said the ban was about more than restrooms. In North Carolina, she said, it is not illegal to fire someone or to refuse to rent or sell a place to live to someone who's gay or transgender.
"That’s where cities and towns can step up and say, 'You cannot fire people for their identity, for their gender identity or their sexual identity, because we see that happening. It literally happens every day," Scott said.
The moratorium also blocked any local attempts to raise the minimum wage.
"I really feel excited about the opportunity for local elected officials like myself and all over this state to take the lead, to take leadership in this moment to act as much as possible to protect our residents and to use local government in a way that affirmatively expands civil rights and protections," Durham Mayor Pro Tem Jillian Johnson said.
Religious conservative groups wasted no time sounding the alarm, sending a letter Wednesday warning city governments not to take up ordinances protecting LGBTQ people, saying they infringe on the religious freedom of private business owners.
"These laws jeopardize the rights of everyone without the systemic pattern of invidious discrimination that might otherwise justify their enactment," the letter states. "North Carolina can respect the dignity of all of its citizens without enacting new ordinances that have devastating consequences for women, families, small businesses and people of faith."
"They always try to frame this – it’s a shell game," Scott said. "[They're] using trans people as the shell for actual discrimination against a broad group of people, not just LGBTQ people, but to suppress fair wages, to keep other protections [from] happening."