Local Politics

Raleigh follows Wake's lead in adopting ordinance protecting LGBTQ community

Posted October 17, 2021 10:11 p.m. EDT
Updated October 19, 2021 3:11 p.m. EDT

— After the Wake County Board of Commissioners on Monday unanimously approved a nondiscrimination ordinance to protect the local LGBTQ community, the Raleigh City Council followed suit on Tuesday.

The City Council voted unanimously to make the employment and public accommodations sections of the county ordinance applicable within Raleigh's city limits.

"This is a great day in Raleigh," Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin said.

The county ordinance, which takes effect Feb. 1, will protect both people who live in the area and visitors from discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and natural hairstyle, specifically in the workplace and in public areas, such as restaurants and stores.

Any employer or business that violates the ordinance would face mediation and, if necessary, mandatory changes. The ordinance, which doesn't apply to religious organizations, spells out enforcement of alleged violations:

  • A person can file a complaint to the county manager's office within 90 days.
  • The county attorney will investigate.
  • They can try to resolve the issue out of court.
  • If not, a court could issue an injunction.

While they don't eliminate all restrictions and barriers – state lawmakers still control the use of public bathrooms and locker rooms – LGBTQ advocates said local ordinances are a step in the right direction.

"I feel like things are changing and that people have the capacity to do so," Celeste Jones said as she celebrated outside the Wake County Justice Center on Monday.

Jones says she is confident enough now to stand up to the discrimination she says she experienced in the workplace as a Black transgender woman.

"I don’t want anything more than the next person. I just want to be able to live a fruitful and successful life," she said.

The North Carolina Family Policy Council, however, opposes such nondiscrimination ordinances.

"They are often weaponized to attack and punish small-business people who are simply seeking to live their lives and conduct their businesses in accordance with their sincerely held religious beliefs," John Rustin, the group's president, said in a statement to WRAL News.

According to the Campaign for Southern Equality, Wake County and Raleigh are the 14th and 15th local governments to take action on rules preventing the LGBTQ community from discrimination protections this year. A poll by the group shows that 67% of people in North Carolina support protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination.

Other studies have shown that one in three LGBTQ people, including three in five transgender people, have experienced discrimination in the past year.

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