Photo Credit: still from Commission meeting video.

RALEIGH, N.C. — On Sept. 21, the Wake County Commission added sexual orientation and gender identity to its employment protections. The county is the second largest by population in North Carolina.

Equality NC Executive Director Chris Sgro said, “This is an important first step towards the full complement of necessary protections for gay and transgender Wake County residents. We look forward to working with local governments all across the Old North State on the county and city levels to pass similar protections.”

“The fight toward full lived equality for folks living inside Wake County is far from over. ENC will continue its efforts with other community leaders and coalition partners to have these protections extended to every resident,” Sgro added.

Wake County became the eighth county or municipality in the state to include these or similar protections in ordinances. Others are Asheville, Boone, Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Charlotte, High Point and Raleigh.

During September, the North Carolina General Assembly almost tipped in the other direction when its members were presented with legislation to strip local governments of their ability to pass ordinances which protected its LGBT residents in the areas of employment discrimination, housing and public accommodations. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of North Carolina (ACLU-NC) joined other advocates in fighting against this part of the proposed legislation.

“In the waning hours of the legislative session, the ACLU and our allies worked tirelessly to educate both members of the General Assembly and the public about the devastating discriminatory consequences of such a law.  A broad coalition that included civil rights groups, faith leaders and local governments came together to stand up and fight — and today, we’re proud to tell you that we won!,” ACLU organizers shared.

“We applaud the Wake County commissioners for joining the growing list of county and city governments that have expanded workplace protections in the interest of fairness and equality,” said Susanna Birdsong, Policy Counsel for the ACLU-NC.

“Everyone deserves a fair chance at employment and advancement in the workplace, and no one should ever lose their job because of who they are or who they love. Employers know that part of attracting and retaining the best employees is offering a workplace that is fair, where qualified individuals are not discriminated against based on characteristics unrelated to the job. The sad reality is, despite overwhelming public support for protecting LGBT workers in North Carolina, it is still legal to fire or refuse to hire someone because of their sexual orientation in much of our state. We urge the General Assembly and other local governments across the state to pass comprehensive employment protections for LGBT workers,” Birdsong added.


Lainey Millen

Lainey Millen was formerly QNotes' associate editor, special assignments writer, N.C. and U.S./World News Notes columnist and production director from 2001-2019 when she retired.