Metro Weekly

North Carolina local nondiscrimination ordinances stay intact

23 Republicans defect to help defeat bill seeking to prohibit localities from passing their own pro-LGBT measures

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A bill that was amended to potentially strip away the ability of local municipalities from enacting their own ordinances was defeated Tuesday after a bloc of Republicans in the North Carolina House of Representatives defected to help send the bill back to committee.

The amendment, which would have also nullified existing ordinances, including those dealing with nondiscrimination in employment, housing or public accommodations, was introduced in conference, violating House rules that require that no provision not approved by either chamber be included in the final version that emerges from the conference committee. Neither chamber’s version of the original bill including limiting the scope of localities’ power.

Currently, three counties and seven cities or towns prohibit discrimination in public employment based on sexual orientation and gender identity, with two more counties and four more cities having protections in place for sexual orientation only. The town of Chapel Hill’s nondiscrimination ordinance also extends to private employment. The city of Charlotte is expected to expand its ordinance to prohibit discrimination in housing and public accommodations next year, and the amendment was expected to pre-empt that move. 

After an initial backlash from good government advocates and LGBT rights groups, Democrats moved that the bill be sent back to the Rules Committee. After the representative behind the provision asked his fellow Republicans to defeat the motion to send the bill back to committee, 23 Republicans defected and voted with Democrats to prevent the bill from moving forward. Once in committee, Republicans again helped defeat the bill, voting 14-7 to keep it from moving to the floor, according to the News & Observer. Most Republicans’ objections appeared to be based on process, rather than the content of the bill.

Chris Sgro, the executive director of Equality NC, applauded the defeat of the amendment attacking local ordinances. 

“Equality NC is excited that, although SB 279 passed, it will not strip the rights of North Carolina’s municipal governments,” he said on Wednesday. “Last night, legislators made a last-ditch effort to attack the LGBT community by adding language to the Healthy Youth Act that would greatly impact gay and transgender North Carolinians.”

Sgro praised the work of activists and supporters of his organization who had contacted their legislators to urge them to oppose the last-minute amendment, as well as those representatives who rejected the changes. 

“I’m so proud of the work we have done to make our voices heard in opposition to the proposed changes to SB 279,” Sgro said. “Fair-minded North Carolinians sprung (sic) into action today and were integral in defeating SB 279. Thanks to the messages from countless gay, transgender and allied residents of the Tar Heel State, our cities and counties can continue to move forward with adding vital protections for LGBT citizens.”

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