Last week, Charlotte, N.C.’s City Council passed a non-discrimination ordinance that gives more rights than federal laws that protect LGBT people: the Federal law applies to employers with fifteen or fewer employees, but Charlotte’s measure is more far-reaching and applies to all employers in the city, even if they have less than fifteen workers.
The new ordinance not only protects LGBT population in the workplace, but also includes sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, including natural hairstyle, familial status, pregnancy. There is a list of classes protected from discrimination in public accommodations, passenger vehicles and employment.
According to Director of Impact and Innovation at the Campaign for Southern Equality, Allison Scott, 67% of North Carolinians believe that LGBT people should be protected from discrimination, yet The Equality Act that was passed last February and still lingers in the Senate. In 2021, there were 58 bills, up from 25, the year before, introduced for bathroom/locker room bans in youth sports. Thirty-three states have introduced more than 100 bills to curb the use of those facilities.
The recent ordinance is welcome in the second most dangerous city (Charlotte)in the United States for transgender and gender non-conforming people, especially black transgender women, according to the Community Outreach Director for Charlotte Black Pride. Charlotte is the tenth community in North Carolina to pass a non-discrimination ordinance. There are approximately 11.3% of the LGBTQ population who identify as transgender, according to USAToday.com, February, 2021.
When will the recent ordinance go into effect? The Employment provision takes effect January 1, 2022 and most of the ordinance, including public accommodation protections, should be in effect October 1, 2021.
Bathroom Accommodations Still Not Resolved
While Charlotte’s ordinance protects against discrimination based on gender expression and gender identity, it does not address bathroom accommodations. Only the so-called H.B. 142 has a clause that gives the General Assembly power to make rules on the bathrooms and public changing facilities. H.B. 142 has expired.
Here’s a brief history of the so-called bathroom bills:
- In 2014, Gavin Grimm, transgender student in Gloucester County, Virginia, sues his School Board. He’s tired of being forced to use the Nurse’s or Women’s Room. He wins his case and is allowed to use the bathroom of his choice that aligns with his identity. Civil Liberties Union, says School Board violated Equal Protection Clause and Title IX, which bars sex-based discrimination in schools. A legal precedent was solidified by lower court protecting rights of transgender students in N.C., Va., Md, W.Va., and S.C.
- In 2016, one bathroom bill , The Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act in N.C. , was approved as a law. U.S. Dept. of Justice and Education stated that schools which receive federal money must treat a student’s gender identity as their sex.
- In 2017, as part of a “Compromise Bill,” between the Democratic government and Republican-controlled Legislature, it blocked cities from passing their own non-discrimination ordinances. The law caused many businesses, particularly outside N.C., to withdraw their sports teams, etc. and the state lost income. There is a clause that forbids municipalities from enacting non-discrimination ordinances for any group not included in the state law, including LGBTQ people.
- In 2019, a new law requires transgender people use the public restrooms that correspond to the sex on their birth certificates. In July, a settlement approved that prohibits North Carolina’s government from banning trans people from using bathrooms in state buildings and highway rest stops that match their gender identity. The Supreme Court addresses part whether people can claim damages, not limits on local anti-discrimination laws.
- August 2021, Extra protections passed for LGBT community, but bathroom laws don’t go far enough according to Human Rights Campaign.
When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know
For more detailed advice, see book, co-authored with a mother of a gay son and a psychiatrist, Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D.