During their monthly meeting at the historic Chatham Court House in Pittsboro, the County Commission approved an NDO that includes LGBTQ protection. Photo: Facebook

Late last month the relatively rural area of Chatham County, considered to be the geographical center of the state of North Carolina, approved an LGBTQ-inclusive non-discrimination ordinance. It goes into effect October 1. 

That might come as a surprise to many, because the entire county’s population is just over 76,000 and is made up of such small towns as Siler City, Pittsboro, Goldston, Fearington and Gulf. 

Interestingly enough, among that population are approximately 10,000 people of Latin American descent. Add a large influx of new residents from all walks of life who have sought out the area for retirement and it’s close proximity to major metropolitan areas like Raleigh and Durham, and you end up with a largely progressive community, yet still plenty of small town atmosphere.

Historically, rural areas and small towns have been associated with conservative politics and intolerance towards people that weren’t white, heterosexual and Christian.  

But times have changed – especially in North Carolina. In the last presidential election, 55 percent of the residents of Chatham County voted Democratic, while only 43 percent voted for the Republican candidate. 

So what do the changes in population make up, political viewpoints and passing of the ordinance all mean?  Hopefully, a blend of inclusivity, equality, understanding, tolerance and a better life for everyone.  

When you get down to the nuts and bolts, the policy prohibits discrimination in public accommodation and employment on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, race, natural hair or hairstyles, ethnicity, national origin, national ancestry, marital status, familial status, pregnancy, veteran status, religion, religious beliefs or non-belief, age or disability.  

Says Chatham County Commissioner Karen Howard: “We now recognize with so many more voices participating in these spaces, that there is so much more nuance and diversity to who we are. The fact that we are broadening this space to protect people in whatever incarnation they show up is so important to me. I’m very grateful to this board for engaging and being as progressive as this really is and saying we want to be a county where people are treated fairly, equally, equitably and in a way that honors exactly who they believe themselves to be.”

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David Aaron Moore is a former editor of Qnotes, serving in the role from 2003 to 2007. He is currently the senior content editor and a regularly contributing writer for Qnotes. Moore is a native of North...