On January 25, the Boone Town Council unanimously voted to pass an ordinance that protects residents from discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, race, natural hair or hairstyles, ethnicity, creed, color, sex, national origin or ancestry, marital or familial status, pregnancy, veteran status, religious belief or non-belief, age, or disability.
The ordinance ensures protections in employment, housing and places of public accommodations – such as restaurants and businesses – by prohibiting discriminatory practices. Of note, the new ordinance ensures that prohibitions on sex discrimination include discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression; and racial discrimination includes prohibition on discrimination based on natural hairstyles.
Similar ordinances prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity have been passed in 21 other municipalities all across North Carolina. They include large cities and smaller towns – such as Asheville, Charlotte, Raleigh, Greensboro, Durham, Hillsborough, and Morrisville – and five counties.
But will Boone be the last county capable of passing such city/county policy, with the state’s new Republican supermajority? With conservatives now in control of the state government after years of district gerrymandering and vowing to push North Carolina in a different direction, it would come as no surprise.
Towns, cities and counties across the state – prior to December 1, 2020 – were previously barred from creating any local or regional policy that could potentially offer protections against discrimination for the LGBTQ community in a “compromise” issued following the HB2, or “Bathroom Bill” brouhaha.
In what was referred to as a “cooling-off period,” any pre-existing LGBTQ supportive polices became void and no additional policies were allowed to be put in place until after that date. Since that time, the 21 North Carolina counties, cities and towns jumped onboard the LGBTQ NDO bandwagon.
From a statement released by Allison Scott, Director of Impact & Innovation at the Campaign for Southern Equality:
“Over the past few years communities across North Carolina have embraced LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination protections and protections for discrimination based on natural hairstyles,” s. These include urban and rural communities, large and small municipalities, and local governments from every region of the state. It’s great to see the Boone Town Council take action tonight – because no one should be left vulnerable to discrimination because of who they are, who they love, or how they express themselves.”
The town of Boone’s actions and Scott’s words are heartwarming. But with the current political atmosphere in North Carolina and Republicans in charge, the possibility exists that anti-LGBTQ legislation currently under consideration will pass. More could likely follow, potentially leaving LGBTQ North Carolinians open to even more legalized discrimination.