Our state has a long, long way to go before LGBTQ+ residents are seen as equal in the eyes of the law.

The Human Rights Campaign just named North Carolina one of 25 states that are a “High Priority to Achieve Basic Equality,” the lowest in the organization’s four-tier State Equality Index. Despite the end of an HB 142 clause that prohibited local governments from enacting anti-discrimination laws locally, the state has no protections in place for LGBTQ individuals—nor do we have protections on race, ethnicity, religion, or sex. The state—along with Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and Texas—only has anti-discrimination policies in place for people with disabilities.

North Carolina laws only support queer individuals through marriage equality and anti-bullying efforts. State officials have also allowed folks to change the gender identity on their driver’s licenses (but not birth certificates). The state provides no legal protections for housing, employment, hate crimes, public accommodations, education, and healthcare protections for trans people, according to the Human Rights Campaign. North Carolina also has no restrictions on conversion therapy.

Basically, you can get married as a queer person and you can’t be bullied in school for being queer, but everything else is fair game under state law.

The state also has its fair share of anti-LGBTQ laws: sodomy in same-sex relationships and HIV/AIDS transmission are both technically punishable by law, there is no age of consent for non-vaginal sex, and our anti-bullying law criminalizes the state’s minors instead of rehabilitating the bully, and supporting the student who was bullied. 

“North Carolina continues to significantly lag behind the rest of the nation when it comes to protecting LGBTQ folks and creating a culture where our most vulnerable can thrive,” Kendra R. Johnson, Equality NC’s executive director, said in a statement. “Equality NC believes that the tides are changing—we will continue to fight for LGBTQ folks, particularly our Black and Brown trans communities, every day and work alongside elected officials and other community leaders to build a better North Carolina for us all.”

Municipalities are taking matters into their own hands after the sunset of the HB 142 provision. After Hillsborough made history by enacting LGBTQ+ anti-discrimination laws in early January, the rest of Orange County followed close behind. Durham and Greensboro have also passed similar ordinances. Despite these strides, conservatives are calling for Republican leaders in the state legislature to take action against the local ordinances. The General Assembly—which is Republican dominated—reconvenes Wednesday.

Chapel Hill leads the rest of the state in the Human Rights Campaign’s 2020 Municipal Equality Index, and the results were calculated before they added their anti-discrimination clause. Greensboro and Carrboro, the second- and third-best North Carolina towns respectively , will also receive bumps in their scores. Raleigh and Cary are the only North Carolina municipalities listed in the index that have not added an anti-discrimination policy. The new scores won’t be calculated until next year.

The highest tier in the State Equality Index is reserved for states working “toward innovative equality.” Maryland, the only state in the South (depending on your definition of the South) in this category, protects LGBTQ+ residents from everything except discrimination in the education system. Virginia falls in the second category thanks to their work to “solidify equality” by passing the 2020 Virginia Values Act. Every other Southern state falls in the bottom tier.

Follow Digital Content Manager Sara Pequeño on Twitter or send an email to spequeno@indyweek.com

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