The Winston-Salem City Council could pass a non-discrimination ordinance as soon as Monday, March 22 that covers transgender people as well as gays and lesbians, but for now the ordinance will not apply to private businesses.
The city’s general government committee voted unanimously on Tuesday to send a package of ordinances and resolutions for a vote at Monday’s 7 p.m. council meeting.
In addition to sexual orientation and gender expression, ordinances would grant protections based on “protected hairstyles,” which are defined as any hairstyle “associated with race,” including “braids, locks, twists, tight coils or curls, cornrows, Bantu knots and afros.”
“The world is changing,” D.D. Adams, who chairs the general government committee, said before passage of the motion to send the non-discrimination measures to the full council.
Kevin Mundy, a member of the committee and the only openly-gay council member, told the other members that right now, he’s the only member a company could legally choose not to do business with because of sexual orientation.
“It is illegal for the seven of you” to be denied service by a business,” Mundy said to the others on the council.
Council Member Robert Clark, the board’s only Republican, voted in favor of the non-discrimination ordinance, but did say that he’s seen news coverage raising the issue of “folks with male genitalia participating in female athletics teams.”
City attorney Angela Carmon said the city would “not inquire about anyone’s sexual identity and gender.” City officials said that currently the city’s recreation programs rely on self-identification when its comes to participating in single-gender sports. Clark did not push the question further.
City Manager Lee Garrity said the measures up before the council on Monday will not require a public hearing. The council would have to hold a second reading on the measures if they failed to get at least six votes on the eight-member council.
Here’s what the proposed changes to city ordinances would do:
*A “policy of nondiscrimination” would commit the city to opposing discrimination based on “race, ethnicity, color, creed, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, pregnancy, veteran status, disability, age, marital status, familial status, protected hairstyle, political affiliation or national origin in any aspect of modern life.”
*City officials would be directed to include the provisions in city contracts, within limits set by state and federal laws.
*The city would “encourage corporate and individual community partners to oppose discrimination in all forms,” but for now imposes no enforcement on the private sector.
*The city will take up to 100 days to determine the extent to which the city can enforce the same non-discrimination policies on the private sector.
*Sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression would be explicitly added to the city’s fair housing ordinance.
*City personnel policies already include sexual orientation as a protected category, but gender identity, gender expression and protected hairstyles would be added to protections.
*A subcommittee of the city’s Human Relations Commission would focus on “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and/or Questioning, Intersex and Asexual and/or Ally (LGBTQIA+) matters,” completing in 18 months a plan to expand nondiscrimination policies, hold forums and so on.
The city ordinance would not immediately deal with the issue that Mundy raised over what private businesses do. Mundy referred to the case last December where a same-sex couple reported they were turned down by a wedding venue here called The Warehouse on Ivy because it did not host same-sex weddings.
Clark pointed out that the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled in favor of a Colorado cake maker who had turned down a same-sex couple’s business. City Attorney Angela Carmon said she would be researching the issue as part of her review.
Carmon told council members that she had revised the city’s proposed ordinances to take into account a 2020 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said the term “sex” in the 1964 Civil Rights Act includes “sexual orientation.”