It looks like Orange County is now the safest place for LGBTQ folks in North Carolina.

The Chapel Hill Town Council voted unanimously to approve an update to their anti-discrimination ordinance on Wednesday night, which will protect people from discrimination in businesses and in the workplace. It is the third Orange County municipality to do so, following Hillsborough’s historic Monday night vote and Carrboro’s unanimous vote Tuesday.

The three towns came together to organize the effort after a key component of HB 142, the state’s compromise after HB 2’s inception, expired in December 2020. Prior to this, local North Carolina municipalities were prohibited from enacting anti-discrimination laws for three years.

Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger told the council how much this ordinance meant to her, personally.

“In this day of COVID, where my gay son is an ER-resident and puts his life on the line every day to treat people, there is no reason he should be expected to be treated differently, or not get a hotel room, or any of those kinds of things,” Hemminger said Wednesday. “I want to fight for a just world.”

Chapel Hill was already considered the best place for LGBTQ residents in North Carolina by the Human Rights Campaign’s 2020 Municipal Equality Index. Carrboro came in third in North Carolina; Hillsborough was not ranked because of population requirements.

Several town residents commented on how excited they were for the legislation, a contrast to the sole negative commenter at Hillsborough’s meeting. Town council members voiced their excitement too, although Councilmember Hongbin Gu reminded listeners that the work is not over.

“There is no piece of legislation that will be able to eradicate discrimination unless we are able to change the hearts and the minds in each one of us,” Gu said. “So that means that as a town, we need to—through our housing policies, through our land use, through all the transportation policies—work intentionally to create spaces to create opportunities for people to come together to understand each other.”

The ACLU of North Carolina, which sued the state over HB 2 and HB 142, praised the municipalities for the new protections.

“We’re glad to see our local leaders taking it upon themselves to ensure all North Carolinians are protected,” ACLU Director Chantal Stevens said in a statement. “It is encouraging to see progress made at the local level, and we hope more cities and towns throughout North Carolina will enact similar anti-discrimination ordinances to protect all of their residents.”

Luckily, it appears Orange County won’t be lonely for long: Durham City Council is set to talk about its anti-discrimination policy on January 19, the same day the Orange County Board of Commissioners will discuss countywide protections.

Follow Digital Content Manager Sara Pequeño on Twitter or send an email to

Support independent local journalism. Join the INDY Press Club to help us keep fearless watchdog reporting and essential arts and culture coverage viable in the Triangle.