A Winston-Salem City Council member is seeding the ground for what we hope will be a fruitful conversation — resulting in effective legislation — in support of LGBT rights.
Kevin Mundy, the first openly gay member of the City Council, has suggested that the city’s general government committee, in February, begin discussing an ordinance that would give city residents protections based on sexual orientation, gender identity and other differences, the Journal’s Wesley Young reported Sunday. The ordinance would include public accommodation measures that would forbid local businesses from discriminating against members of the LGBT community.
Winston-Salem wouldn’t be the first North Carolina locality to promote such protections — or, equality — for members of the LGBT community. Hillsborough, Chapel Hill, Durham and Greensboro, among other N.C. cities, have done so or plan to do so.
The Hillsborough law, passed earlier this month, makes it unlawful — punishable by a misdemeanor and $500 fine — for businesses or other entities within the town limits to discriminate in employment and in offering goods and services to the public, including lodging and dining.
“This is a step in the right direction," Hillsborough board member Matt Hughes, who is openly gay, said last week. In “so many places across the country, just not in the Southeast but really everywhere, people can marry the love of their life on a Saturday and get fired Monday when they show up at work."
In 2016, the state legislature passed an odious law, HB2, that barred North Carolina cities from creating and implementing non-discrimination ordinances.
The law contained a key provision that required transgender people to use restrooms in many public buildings that corresponded to their sex at birth — a requirement that encouraged situations that were awkward and, sometimes, dangerous for LGBT people.
The uproar over the law threatened our state economy and prompted several large corporations and sports teams to relocate events to other states or reconsider expanding in North Carolina.
In 2017, Gov. Roy Cooper and Republican legislators replaced that law with one that prohibited local governments from enacting new nondiscrimination ordinances for workplaces, hotels and restaurants until December 2020.
The business community has often been ahead of the curve when it comes to supporting LGBT rights — not only because it’s good for the bottom line — more full participants in society means more customers and a more stable business environment — but also because it allows top creative talent to flourish.
It’s good for society to be accepting, too. Discrimination serves no purpose beyond promoting prejudice.
Even conservative Supreme Court justices — to the dismay of some conservatives — have ruled that the Civil Rights Act protects gay and transgender Americans from discrimination in employment.
Much of the conversation that begins here in February is likely to focus on public accommodations.
Most ordinances have religious exemptions that would cover areas such as church employment, Mundy said, but "when it comes to public accommodations, I don't think they will have the right to turn the (customers) down because they are gay."
We’re not entirely unsympathetic to the rights of religious conservatives to practice their beliefs in their businesses, even if that leads to discrimination. Our Constitution guarantees certain religious freedoms.
Still, from a philosophical standpoint, it’s hard to understand those who insist that they should be allowed to deny service to customers whose religious views differ.
It also doesn’t seem a wise business practice.
If religious observers must object, we hope they’ll do so without resorting to the crude and deceitful tales of bathroom predation that state legislators used to support HB2. They have no place in an honest discussion.
Such an ordinance would require extensive conversation and can’t be rushed through, City Council members and City Manager Lee Garrity said. Mundy expects the conversation to be "slower and more deliberate" than what has gone on elsewhere in the state, and that’s good.