It’s been a long road for non-discrimination protections in North Carolina since the passage of House Bill 2 (HB2) almost five years ago, which ignited international outcry, economic backlash and the invalidation of many non-discrimination ordinances previously passed across the state.
Since a key prong of House Bill 142 (HB142) — HB2’s problematic successor — expired on Dec. 1, we’ve seen five cities and one county across North Carolina begin to pass long-overdue LGBTQ-inclusive non-discrimination ordinances. We’ve also seen incredible progress on the federal level with the Biden administration issuing several major executive orders advancing LGBTQ rights, including expanding protections from last summer’s Bostock v. Clayton County decision. Last week, we also saw the House of Representatives, again, pass the Equality Act.
We have plenty of reasons to celebrate, but not all progress translates to true and meaningful protections for the most vulnerable — particularly at the local level.
As Equality NC and the #NCIsReady coalition have worked with local stakeholders to pass nondiscrimination ordinances this year, we’ve encountered a recurring question: What makes an effective local non-discrimination policy? There are several different kinds of routes that municipalities can take, including resolutions, which symbolically call for LGBTQ inclusion and an end to discrimination and ordinances; which provide methods in enforce non-discrimination. However, resolutions, unlike ordinances, do not provide the same level of opportunity for meaningful change in peoples’ lives.
The bottom line is: local LGBTQ protections need to effectively address the ways in which the most vulnerable members of our communities experience marginalization. That’s why it’s important that these laws actually alleviate harm and improve the conditions of peoples’ lives — they can’t just be symbolic.
Because resolutions don’t have teeth or an enforcement mechanism, they aren’t really addressing the lived impact that LGBTQ-inclusive non-discrimination ordinances provide. Employers who want to fire LGBTQ people without just cause still can. Queer folks can be kicked out of restaurants. Trans folks can still experience discrimination while searching for housing.
Ordinances close that gap, because they directly address the avenues by which so many LGBTQ people are marginalized — whether it be employment, housing, or public accommodations — they make the lives of LGBTQ people much more secure. Symbolic gestures are great, but even greater is the increase in lived equality which non-discrimination ordinances represent.
Equality NC is working hard to ensure that our ordinances here in North Carolina will be effective, but we’re more powerful if we also have support. We all need to stand up for lived equality — and we all need to encourage our elected officials to pass non-discrimination ordinances that actually change the conditions of North Carolinians’ lives and work toward a more equitable state for us all.
You can chip in — all you have to do is head to NCisready.org. There you can find the contact information for local elected officials as well as updates about the status of non-discrimination ordinances. You can also read stories of people whose lives would be impacted by non-discrimination and who are standing up for lived equality.
Join us and them in standing up for full and meaningful lived equality, and help build a better North Carolina for us all.
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