CHARLOTTE, N.C. — City Council will hear proposals for amending several non-discrimination ordinances at their dinner briefing on Feb. 9. If later adopted, the LGBT-inclusive changes would include an updated public accommodations ordinance, a first for a city in North Carolina.
The proposals for the four separate ordinances were originally presented in November. Some members of Council requested City Attorney Bob Hagemann research the proposals further and come back to them with a further briefing. Hagemann will present his research and the final proposed ordinance updates on Monday. The meeting is slated for 5 p.m. in the Council’s conference center at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center, 600 E. Fourth St.
All of the changes will add several enumerated characteristics — marital status, familial status, sexual orientation, gender expression, and gender identity — to protected classes already listed in the city’s public accommodations, Commercial Non-Discrimination, Passenger Vehicle for Hire and Community Relations Committee ordinances.
Councilmember John Autry (District 5) has worked closely with colleagues Patsy Kinsey (District 1) and LaWana Mayfield (District 3) to encourage the changes.
“I’m looking forward to a very positive discussion about how we stake our claim as an inclusive and welcoming municipality in the modern area,” Autry said on Wednesday. “The reality of it is are we going to move forward or try to keep a foot or two toes in the past?”
The local proposals would be the first in the state to add LGBT protections to a public accommodations ordinance, though the City of Greensboro recently became the first to add inclusive protections to their local fair housing ordinance. In Charlotte, Council has decided not to take up changes to their housing ordinance, due to complications with the city charter.
The proposed changes are likely to pass, according to local organizers. Hagemann is expected to ask Council to vote on the final changes at their meeting on Feb. 23.
There could be some uncertainty or challenge, though. Several Council members had voiced reservations or questions about the changes during the November briefing.
Organizers hope Hagemann’s briefing will answer those questions, clearing the way for a final vote.
“The coalition team is cautiously optimistic about the impending vote and are continuing to talk with city council members, answer their questions and to confirm their level of support,” said Scott Bishop, chair of the Mecklenburg LGBT Political Action Committee (MeckPAC), part of a local coalition of organizations working on the change, including Equality North Carolina, the Charlotte Business Guild, Genderlines, LGBT Democrats of Mecklenburg County, the ACLU-Charlotte and the Human Rights Campaign.
Updates to the ordinances have been a long time in the making. The possibility of forthcoming changes, particularly to the Commercial Non-Discrimination Ordinance, were originally reported by qnotes in June 2013, when the newspaper also reported that at least $1.1 million in Democratic National Convention-related city contracting funds had gone to companies without LGBT-inclusive protections. At the time, a statewide anti-LGBT advocacy group began contacting city leaders to voice their opposition to potential changes.
The most recent effort to address the ordinance changes began again last July.
The last time City Council considered similar protections was in November 1992. It voted down the proposal and hasn’t had a direct, public vote on an LGBT-inclusive measure since. Current Mayor Dan Clodfelter was a Council member during that vote. He voted for the changes.
No other city in the state offers public accommodations protections to LGBT citizens, though several cities in South Carolina do, including state capital Columbia, Charleston, Folly Beach and Myrtle Beach, along with Richland County.
The state of North Carolina does not currently protect LGBT people from discrimination in employment, public accommodations or other areas.
Debate on the LGBT-inclusive changes comes as Council also considers recommendations from a separate task force addressing immigrant concerns. Council is expected to make a final decision on those recommendations, including the creation of a municipal ID card, on Feb. 23, as well.