The Charlotte City Council voted unanimously last night in favor of adopting an ordinance that would ban discrimination based on—among other categories—“sex (including sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression).” The ordinance directly addresses “discrimination” within employment, public accommodations, and businesses that contract with the City of Charlotte.
As of January 1, 2022, employers in Charlotte will not be allowed to “fail or refuse to hire, discharge, or otherwise discriminate” against any person because of their “Protected Class,” that is “race, color, gender, religion, national origin, ethnicity, age, familial status, sex (including sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression), veteran status, pregnancy, natural hairstyle or disability.”
“Sexual orientation” is specifically defined as “a person’s actual or perceived emotional, romantic, or sexual attraction to other people which includes, but is not limited to, heterosexuality, homosexuality or bisexuality.” “Gender identity and gender expression” is defined as, “having or being perceived as having gender-related identity, expression, appearance, or behavior, whether or not that identity, expression, appearance, or behavior is different from that traditionally associated with the sex assigned to that individual at birth.”
The section of the ordinance addressing public accommodations and city contracts goes into effect on October 1 of this year. It bans the city from entering into a contract with “any business firm that has discriminated in the solicitation, selection, hiring or treatment of vendors, suppliers, subcontractors, or commercial customers on the basis of a Protected Class.” While the public accommodations section does not apply to public restrooms, it does include “a business, accommodation, refreshment, entertainment, recreation, or transportation facility of any kind, whether licensed or not, whose goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages or accommodations are extended, offered, sold or otherwise made available to the public.”
The ordinance does include an exemption for “religious organizations,” defined as a:
It is unclear, however, how the ordinance will be applied to non-sectarian businesses that are owned and operated by Christians and other people of faith who seek to live their lives and operate their businesses in accordance with their sincerely held religious beliefs.
NC Family has frequently shared about the harms caused by such SOGI ordinances, especially as they pertain to small business owners, and women and girls in sports. By passing this ordinance, Charlotte joins numerous other cities and counties in North Carolina that have passed SOGI ordinances since a statewide prohibition expired on December 2020.