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Local Governments to Consider New Protections for LGBTQ People in Orange County, NC

Friday, Jan. 8, 2021
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Gay elected officials championing anti-discrimination ordinances to protect LGBTQ residents (from left): Hillsborough Commissioner Matt Hughes, Chapel Hill Council Member Karen Stegman, Carrboro Council Member Damon Seils, and Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle.

This is a joint news release of Orange County and the towns of Carrboro, Chapel Hill and Hillsborough, North Carolina.

Local governments in Orange County, North Carolina, 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 like 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.

“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. Further, our Orange County voters have historically shown overwhelming support for the LGBTQ community. These proposed ordinances reflect the values of our communities.”

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.

"This ordinance, if passed, will fill critical gaps to ensure the rights of Hillsborough's LGBTQ residents and workers, in addition to other vulnerable populations,” said Hillsborough Mayor Jenn Weaver. “I am excited our board will be considering this important step on Monday night."

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. 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.

Review and adoption

The anti-discrimination ordinances are scheduled for review and adoption as follows:

Hillsborough ― Board of Commissioners meets at 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 11.
Meeting agenda available at https://www.hillsboroughnc.gov/government/town-calendar/meeting/839/
Mayor: Jenn Weaver
Media contact: Commissioner Matt Hughes
https://www.hillsboroughnc.gov/government/board-of-commissioners/

Carrboro ― Town Council meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 12.
Meeting agenda available at https://carrboro.legistar.com
Media contacts: Mayor Lydia Lavelle and Council Member Damon Seils
http://townofcarrboro.org/248/Town-Council

Chapel Hill ― Town Council meets at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 13.
Meeting agenda available at https://chapelhill.legistar.com
Mayor: Pam Hemminger
Media contact: Council Member Karen Stegman
https://www.townofchapelhill.org/government/mayor-and-council

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
Chair: Renee Price
Media contact: Commissioner Mark Dorosin
https://www.orangecountync.gov/953/Board-of-County-Commissioners-BOCC