After a complex and sometimes angry one-hour discussion, a unanimous Greensboro City Council voted late Tuesday to reinstate ordinances to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination. Those ordinances were nullified nearly five years ago by the General Assembly.
Council members also added a provision to more clearly define sexual orientation and gender as well as new language protecting people from discrimination based on hairstyles that can be associated with racial and national origin. Elected officials in Durham also passed a similar ordinance on Tuesday.
"We want everybody in our community to be protected," Mayor Nancy Vaughan said after the vote. "We want Greensboro to truly be a welcoming place. We have to do things to make ourselves stand apart, and we're making positive steps. We have to have uncomfortable discussions, and this is how you make sausage."
The issue became contentious when council member and mayoral candidate Justin Outling suggested that the law as proposed did not include penalties for violations. Although the appropriate penalty was debated at length, council agreed on a fine based on laws some other cities have recently passed.
A law prohibiting discrimination in the workplace would cover all businesses, regardless of size, and, subject to federal approval, would prevent discrimination in housing.
Penalties for violations include up to a $500 fine.
Most of the changes approved by council aren't new but simply reinstate the 2015 language that was nullified by the state.
In January 2015, Greensboro first added ordinances to protect people from discrimination by businesses and in their place of employment because of their LGBTQ status or other differences.
Just over a year later, the General Assembly and then-Gov. Pat McCrory enacted House Bill 2, commonly known as the “bathroom bill.” That action superseded the stricter anti-discrimination laws from Greensboro and other cities. The state’s law contained no protections for LBGTQ people.
A key disputed section of HB 2 required transgender people in many public buildings to use restrooms that corresponded to their sex at birth. It ignited a firestorm of national controversy, resulting in several large corporations, sports associations and rock stars relocating events to other states or canceling them altogether.
In early 2017, newly elected Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and GOP legislative leaders struck a compromise that repealed HB 2 but prohibited local governments from enacting new nondiscrimination ordinances for workplaces, hotels and restaurants until December 2020.
Now, six weeks after that provision expired, the council has approved a resolution protecting people from discrimination by places of employment or by businesses that serve the public because of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Under the ordinance, "sex" is defined as explicitly including "sexual orientation, gender expression or gender identity."
Contact Richard M. Barron at 336-373-7371 and follow @BarronBizNR on Twitter.