Move to expand LGBT rights with North Carolina moratorium lifted
A number of municipalities are planning to expand LGBT rights after a North Carolina moratorium on non-discrimination ordinances had expired in December of last year.
The moratorium was first instituted as a compromise to do away with a “Bathroom Bill” in the state of North Carolina. The moratorium expired last December 1 after a three and a half year ban.
Enacting protections after the North Carolina moratorium
Among the North Carolina municipalities is Hillsborough, a town northwest of Raleigh whose board recently approved new protections based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and other differences.
Under these new protections, businesses within the town limits that discriminate on employment and in offering goods and services to the public can be punished by a class 3 misdemeanor and a $500 fine per day.
Hillsborough board member Matt Hughes, who is openly gay, said that: “This is a step in the right direction.”
Hughes noted that in many places across the US, people can marry the love of their life on a Saturday and get fired on Monday when they report for work.
“I think folks need to know that when they violate in the law, in this case participate in discrimination, that there is a penalty,” Hughes said.
Aside from Hillsborough, the towns of Carrboro and Chapel Hill– the home of the University of North Carolina’s main campus– as well the city of Durham are planning to follow suit.
The legacy of House Bill 2, or the ‘Bathroom Bill’
The moratorium is the result of House Bill 2, which was passed by the Republican-dominated legislature and signed into law by GOP Gov. Pat McCrory in March 2016.
This measure also barred additional non-discrimination ordinances by towns and cities after the Charlotte City Council instituted its own non-discrimination ordinance.
HB2 was dubbed a “Bathroom Bill” because it required transgender people to use restrooms in public buildings that corresponded to their sex at birth.
The measure drew national condemnation from rights groups and pushed several corporations and sports teams to relocate their events to other states or reconsider expanding in the state.
Even film and television makers avoided making their shows in the state. Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo said the bill “hurt the entire state. It hurt us quite dramatically.”
In 2017, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper worked with GOP legislative leaders to repeal HB2 and approve a replacement law, which prohibited local governments from enacting non-discrimination ordinances until December 2020.
The battles following the North Carolina moratorium
While these places will be implementing their own LGBT protections, GOP lawmakers in the state legislation are not interested in approving statewide LGBT protections.
What’s more, conservative groups like the North Carolina Values Coalition aim to block broad LGBT nondiscrimination ordinances because will violate protected free speech and religious liberties.
Tami Fitzgerald with the North Carolina Values Coalition said Hillborough board is “attempting to punish people and businesses that don’t hold to their government view of sexuality.”
Fitzgerald said they would consider legal challenges and even ask the North Carolina General Assembly to intervene. But the GOP lawmakers have limited options to cancel local ordinances.
Hillsborough Mayor Pro Tempore Mark Bell, who has claimed he has a transgender child, said, “The thought of my kid in the future losing employment or health care or being discriminated against, especially on the grounds of someone’s religion– it’s offensive.”
With the expiration of the prohibition, Equality North Carolina executive director Kendra Johnson said, “It’s a new day for LGBTQ North Carolinians, who for too long have lived under the legacy of discrimination in this state.”