Not Raleigh, or Charlotte, or Greensboro—it was Hillsborough, a town of 7,000 people, who made history Monday night by enacting North Carolina’s first LGBTQ anti-discrimination policy in the ashes of HB 142. The ordinance passed unanimously.
“The nondiscrimination ordinances that Hillsborough and localities across the state will pass show the commitment we as local officials have to the constitutional principle of equal protection under the law,” Commissioner Matt Hughes said in a statement. “As a biracial gay man myself, it brings me hope that our constituents know we not only see them, but that we will do all within our power to support, enable, and protect them as they live their lives without fear of discrimination for themselves and their families.”
The town, along with Chapel Hill and Carrboro, announced Friday that the trio of Orange County municipalities was trying to enact new legislation. Hillsborough’s meeting over the ordinance was scheduled first, meaning they just happened to be the first municipality to enact these protections. Carrboro will discuss changing the legislation on Tuesday night, while Chapel Hill is scheduled to talk Wednesday.
The vote was not uncontested: Tami Fitzgerald opposed the decision, saying it would “allow business owners and people of faith to be punished.”
Fitzgerald—a Raleigh resident who serves as executive director of the staunchly conservative N.C. Values Coalition—cited lawsuits in other states, but Hughes and General Counsel Bob Hornik assured listeners that the legality of the ordinance had been discussed, and HB 142 gave municipalities the power to enact this legislation.
HB 142 is the former compromise between Governor Roy Cooper and the Republican-led General Assembly. It repealed HB 2, the notorious anti-trans* Bathroom Bill, but didn’t change much: the state is still allowed to regulate “multi-occupancy bathrooms,” and municipalities were barred from creating queer anti-discrimination laws until December 1, 2020. This expiration date paired well with the June 2020 Supreme Court ruling that LGBTQ folks were protected by the Civil Rights Act.
“In 2020, the United States Supreme Court affirmed the rights of LGBTQ people to employment free of discrimination, and the North Carolina Court of Appeals recently ruled that LGBTQ residents have the right to be provided services the same as any other member of the public,” Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle said in a statement. “Further, our Orange County voters have historically shown overwhelming support for the LGBTQ community. These proposed ordinances reflect the values of our communities.”
The Orange County Board of Commissioners is supposedly discussing countywide protections on January 19, the same day they will discuss the Buc-ee’s development project.
Chapel Hill ranked higher than any other city in the state on the Human Rights Campaign’s 2020 Municipal Equality Index. Greensboro came in second and Carrboro ranked third, while Cary received a zero out of 100. The index didn’t include Hillsborough.
Follow Digital Content Manager Sara Pequeño on Twitter or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.