Charlotte, North Carolina has passed an ordinance to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity after years of delays and billions of dollars.
Five years ago, when the city tried to pass an inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance, Republican state legislators reacted with a series of anti-LGBTQ laws that prohibited cities from passing nondiscrimination ordinances and banned transgender women from public restrooms.
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The move sparked immediate nationwide condemnation. Sporting events were moved out of state, concert and conference contracts were canceled, and companies across the Fortune 500 quickly castigated lawmakers.
While the move was intended to demonize the transgender community, it ended up galvanizing the fight for transgender rights as Americans took notice of the issues facing the community. Every poll showed that most people thought it was a non-issue and supported the rights of trans people to pee in peace.
Then-Gov. Pat McCrory (R), one of the bill’s most vocal supporters, was voted out of office after the debacle by a Democrat who promised to repeal it. An analysis by the Associated Press one year after the bill passed found it had cost the state more than $3.76 billion.
A compromise deal struck by Gov. Roy Cooper (D) got rid of the most well-known provision of House Bill 2 that required transgender people to use restrooms corresponding to the sex on their birth certificates in many public buildings. But the new law made clear that state legislators, not local governments, were in charge of any future bathroom policies.
The replacement law also prohibited local governments from enacting new nondiscrimination ordinances until 2020.
Cooper boasted that he stopped Republicans from imposing more stringent, permanent restrictions on the LGBTQ community, such as religious freedom provisions. “I made clear I was not going to support those provisions and they didn’t happen,” Cooper said, calling it the “best deal that we could get.”
But now that the deadline has passed, communities across the state have passed nondiscrimination laws meant to protect the LGBTQ community.
Charlotte’s ordinance applies to all employers, private or public, and also included public accommodation protections. It includes sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, pregnancy and natural hairstyles as protected classes.
Most of the ordinance will go into effect later this year, but enforcement won’t begin until January 1 so councilors can decide what that will look like and how to do it.