North Carolina City Approves LGBT Protection Ordinance 5 Years After State Blocked Measure

The city council in Charlotte, North Carolina unanimously approved an LGBT protections ordinance five years after the state blocked a measure expanding the city's non-discrimination ordinance, the Associated Press reported.

The move, approved Monday, protects sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, pregnancy and natural hairstyles from discrimination including within all companies with public and private employers. It also prevents discrimination against customers and those who visit public places of service.

Religious organizations do not have to abide by the new LGBT protections ordinance.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

LGBT Flags in Charlotte, North Carolina
Charlotte, North Carolina approved a LGBT protections ordinance five years after the state blocked a measure expanding the city's non-discrimination ordinance. In this photo, people hold LGBT flags during the final day of the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on September 6, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

When North Carolina blocked an expansion of Charlotte's nondiscrimination ordinance it prompted a backlash that cost the state billions of dollars.

The ordinance applies to all employers — private as well as public, both big and small — despite a recommendation by city attorney Patrick Baker to limit it to businesses with 14 or fewer workers, rather than make the city handle a flood of complaints involving large employers.

The ordinance doesn't apply to religious organizations, including those with paid employees where a condition of employment requires adherence to tenets of religion. There's also an exemption for private clubs or membership-based groups.

It does not cover protections for political affiliation and does not address public bathroom regulations.

It's not clear how Charlotte will enforce the ordinance and how it will impact the city's budget.

Mayor Vi Lyles referred the need for an enforcement mechanism to the Budget and Effectiveness Committee, which will develop recommendations for the full council to consider.

Most of the ordinance will go into effect Oct. 1, enforcement of the employment provision begins on Jan. 1.

North Carolina municipalities began acting to expand LGBT rights this year after the expiration of a moratorium on anti-bias ordinances that was created during efforts to remove House Bill 2, which became known as the state's "bathroom bill."

In 2016, the Republican-dominated legislature approved House Bill 2 and McCrory signed it into law after the city council sought to expand LGBT protections in Charlotte.

A key disputed section of HB2 required transgender people to use restrooms in many public buildings that corresponded to their sex recorded at birth. It drew national condemnation and prompted several large corporations and sports teams to relocate events to other states or reconsider expanding in North Carolina. The Associated Press found in 2017 that the law cost the state more than $3.76 billion, primarily from businesses that decided to skip intended moves to North Carolina.

In early 2017, the newly elected Democratic Governor Roy Cooper and GOP legislative leaders approved a replacement law that repealed the bathroom requirement while also prohibiting local governments from enacting new nondiscrimination ordinances for workplaces, hotels and restaurants until December 2020.