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Hillsborough passes ordinance protecting LGBTQ+ community from discrimination; more Orange County towns to vote this week

ABC 11 Raleigh NC logo ABC 11 Raleigh NC 1/12/2021 WTVD

Hillsborough town leaders voted Monday to pass an ordinance protecting LGBTQ community members from discrimination. This makes Hillsborough the first municipality in the state to pass LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination protections in recent years.

"Every person deserves to be recognized in their full humanity and treated with decency and fairness. I am so proud for Hillsborough to join local governments across the state to protect all those within our jurisdictions to ensure the rights of everyone who lives, works, and plays in our communities," said Hillsborough Mayor Jenn Weaver.

Town Commissioner Matt Hughes spearheaded the effort.

"It's very important to me as a member of the LGBTQ community," said Hughes. "Growing up I didn't even know that I could even hold the office that I hold because of the fact that I was LGBTQ. Could someone see voting for a young gay biracial guy?"

Under the new law, LGBTQ workers would be protected from employment discrimination and intolerance when patronizing restaurants, hotels, and shops.

Violators could be charged with a misdemeanor and get slapped with $500 fine.

"I think that is very important because when you violate someone's civil rights it definitely needs to come with a steep penalty," said Hughes.

Hillsborough's proposed antidiscrimination ordinance comes after a provision of 2017's House Bill 142 expired.

Local cities and towns can now adopt their own protections.

The General Assembly still controls potential regulations over multi-use bathrooms and locker rooms.

This week in Chapel Hill and Carrboro, gay elected leaders are proposing similar protections.

Chapel Hill resident Lee Storrow says the proposed ordinance is putting members of his community at ease.

"I think there is a lot of excitement and energy about what's about to happen this week," said Storrow, who works for the North Carolina AIDS Action Network, based in Chapel Hill.

"In my professional work-working on behalf of folks having HIV and living with HIV-they are concerned about discrimination living with HIV, about being Trans or Gay or Bisexual, and some based on race. And the intersection of all three of those."

Equality NC says it's hoping other elected leaders, including state and federal, follow suit -- calling the situation a matter of life or death.

"North Carolinians have been ready for nondiscrimination protections for a long time. Without them, LGBTQ North Carolinians, particularly Black, Brown, trans and gender-nonconforming folks, face harassment and violence on a daily basis," said Kendra R. Johnson, executive director.

Campaign for Southern Equality released this statement:

"We're grateful that these North Carolina communities are taking the lead on LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections and showing how it's possible to create a state where everyone can thrive. After such a divisive start to the year - with violent unrest at the U.S. Capitol and persistent attacks on our democratic institutions from our outgoing president - it's inspiring to see our elected leaders coming together to consider policies that tangibly improve residents' lives. This will make an immediate difference in the lives of LGBTQ people, from youth to elders, who call these communities home."

Leaders in Chapel Hill and Carrboro meet Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss their ordinances.

On Tuesday, January 19, elected officials from the Orange County Commission and Durham City Council will consider similar protections.

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