City of Charlotte working on nondiscrimination ordinance

CHARLOTTE — With the sunset of HB142, the city of Charlotte is now working on a nondiscrimination ordinance. Mayor Vi Lyles made the announcement following public comment Monday after a speaker expressed a desire for Charlotte to implement one.

“The city of Charlotte is committed to creating a safe, diverse and equitable community for all of our residents and visitors. I believe this is necessary for any city like ours,” Lyles said in a statement to Eyewitness News Reporter Joe Bruno. “This is an important topic that deserves our support and, as we see from other cities and counties, collaboration within communities is important. We will be meeting with LGBTQ+ community leaders and others in our community to discuss our specific ordinance language to ensure that everyone is protected and welcomed in our city. We recognize this is an important issue, and one city council will be taking up in the coming months.”

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Terms of Charlotte’s new nondiscrimination ordinance have yet to be released. When the Charlotte City Council passed an ordinance in February 2016, city leaders modified the existing ordinance on the books. Seven council members voted in favor of the ordinance. Only two of the seven remain on council, Lyles and Mayor Pro Tem Julie Eiselt.

Eiselt is involved in the city’s plan to create a new ordinance.

“I don’t think it would surprise anybody to say that the Charlotte City Council is in favor of an ordinance that everybody is valued and that everybody has rights, and that we should not discriminate against people because of their gender identity and sexual orientation,” Eiselt said.

The new anti-discrimination protections are possible because the HB142 law that overturned HB2 expired.

The city of Charlotte is working with Equality NC and local business leaders to decide what Charlotte’s new ordinance should say. The city also intends to engage with lawmakers in Raleigh. Spokespersons for Speaker Tim Moore and Sen. Phil Berger did not respond to requests for comment.

“We are not dragging our feet on this,” Eiselt said. “We want to make sure we are doing this the right way.”

The first place in the state to pass a new nondiscrimination ordinance was the town of Hillsborough. Their ordinance bans discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression in places of public accommodation and employment. Chapel Hill has a similar ordinance.

Carrboro, Durham and Greensboro take it a step further. In addition to protecting LGBTQ residents, the three added protections against hair discrimination. Local governments can make their nondiscrimination ordinances more inclusive due to the sunset of HB142.

“Some cities are taking the opportunity to not just reinstate protections that might have been there before that might have been preexisting in other areas of law, but also to incorporate new protected classes,” Equality NC Policy Director Ames Simmons said.

Equality NC is happy to see towns and cities start to pass these ordinances now that HB142 is off the books. Policy Director Ames Simmons said many people don’t realize how many places across the country do not have similar measures in place.

“It is super common for people to react with disbelief that LGBTQ people don’t have protection in employment and public accommodations right now,” he said.

There is no timeline for when Charlotte will take up the ordinance. A public hearing will likely be held before any vote is taken.