CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Charlotte city leaders voted on new protections for LGBTQ citizens Monday, unanimously passing a nondiscrimination ordinance.
This new nondiscrimination ordinance is roughly five years in the making after Charlotte's first attempt was voided by the state's House Bill 2, which became known as the "bathroom bill."
Charlotte's new bill will make it illegal for people to be discriminated against for things like their sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, familial status, veteran status, pregnancy, or natural hairstyle. The new bill does not regulate bathrooms.
As part of the discrimination protections, it will also extend to employment applying to all employers in the city of Charlotte even those with less than 15 employees.
Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles said she applauds the council for working to make the best decision for the city.
“When you look at the track record for this council to have authentic debates about things that will make a difference in this community they have stepped up and done it in every way and I am really appreciative of that," Mayor Lyles said.
Close to 40 speakers came out to Monday night's meeting to speak during public comment. Some were in support of the ordinance, others opposed.
“I can be denied services at a restaurant, I can be fired from a job and have difficulty accessing the care that I need all because of who I am and who I love and that needs to change," supporter Elizabeth Schob said.
“What type of city do you want to live in?" Charlotte City Councilman Malcolm Graham previously asked. "What type of community do you want to build?"
Graham said those questions are why he supported passing a new nondiscrimination ordinance. He explained why it's important for Charlotte to join the growing list of cities, counties and municipalities across the state.
"A number of other cities have already approved similar legislation locally that kind of governs rules and regulations around what's permissible in terms of equal access," Graham said.
At the meeting Monday, Council Member Tariq Bokhari suggested a substitute proposal to include protection of political affiliation, but that substitute motion did not pass.
Charlotte’s newly-approved ordinance will protect people from being discriminated against because of their sexual orientation and gender identity, with an added focus on ethnic communities.
“It talks specifically about the CROWN Act and providing nondiscriminatory action against females and males who wear their hair naturally or in a different style,” Graham said.
Notably missing from this ordinance is a regulation on bathrooms, which is still prohibited by state law.
"This creates on paper what we all practice, in reality, that diversity and inclusion are part of the fabric of what makes our city great," explained Graham.
But not everyone supported the ordinance. Those opposed believe it's a textbook example of government overreach, particularly when it comes to hiring employees.
"If something is against our conscience, we should have to do something, and that goes on both sides," said Tamara Bunte, the founder of the Christian Business Chamber. "I feel like the government forcing me to go against my religious freedoms is a violation."
Graham says the city’s goal is simply to be more inclusive.
"The council and the mayor are interested in building a community, a city with equal access for all," said Graham.
Those in the LGBTQ community say they are excited about this victory, but add there is still more work to be done.
“There are people who live outside of Charlotte who are not protected and we look forward to Mecklenburg County following suit hopefully in the next few months," LGBTQ Democrats of Mecklenburg County President Cameron Pruett said.
The city's nondiscrimination ordinance will officially take effect Oct. 1. The employment protections will begin on Jan. 1, 2022.