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Raleigh joins Wake County in new non-discrimination protections

The Raleigh City Council unanimously voted to join in a new, LGBTQ-inclusive non-discrimination ordinance Tuesday, the day after the ordinance was passed by Wake County.

The move makes North Carolina’s capital city the 15th local government in the state to pass such an ordinance since a ban on local non-discrimination ordinances expired late last year.

The ban was one of the legacies of 2016’s brutal fight over HB2, the controversial law that excluded lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from statewide nondiscrimination protections. Though House Bill 142 partially repealed HB2, it locked in place a ban on new LGBTQ protections — including nondiscrimination ordinances for employment and housing.

In January the town of Hillsborough became the fist local government to pass new local protections.

The ordinance in Raleigh and Wake County offer protections against discrimination based on “sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression” as well as national origin and ancestry, color, ethnicity, religious belief, disability and things like veteran status or the wearing of natural hair or hairstyles. The protections apply in places of public accommodation like restaurants and hotels as well as in employment.

Jonathan Melton, Raleigh City Council member.

State law continues to govern access to multiple occupancy restrooms, showers or changing facilities. They are not covered by any of the new local ordinances and religious organizations continue to be exempt.

“I’m proud to see the Raleigh City Council come together to take action and ensure our city is a place where all people feel protected, respected, and safe,” said Raleigh City Council Member Jonathan Melton in a statement Tuesday. “As an LGBTQ person myself, it’s so meaningful to know that my city is striving for inclusivity and dignity for everyone, and as an out elected official I’m grateful to work with colleagues committed to doing the right thing.”

With the addition of Raleigh,  North Carolina’s five largest cities – including Greensboro,  Durham, Winston-Salem and Charlotte – all offer such protections.

“We’re so pleased to see Raleigh take this historic step to expand nondiscrimination,” said Kendra Johnson, executive director of Equality NC. “Nearly 30 percent of the state’s population is now covered by LGBTQ inclusive ordinances, and this represents a great change for the city of Raleigh and the state of North Carolina. Raleigh has taken a big step forward to protect LGBTQ people, especially for folks with multiple layers of marginalization, and this only grows momentum for the non-discrimination on the local, state, and federal level.”

Equality NC and the Campaign for Southern Equality have led the charge for new non-discrimination ordinances though the NC is Ready for LGBTQ Protections campaign. The groups point to polling that shows 67 percent of North Carolinians support protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination.

Polling shows that 67% of people in North Carolina support protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination. Studies have shown that 1 in 3 LGBTQ people – including 3 in 5 transgender people – have experienced discrimination in the past year.

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