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Mecklenburg Co. leaders vote to advance nondiscrimination ordinance to expand protection to LGBTQ community

Advocates say the changes have been a long time coming and they’re optimistic.
Published: Oct. 5, 2021 at 6:11 AM EDT|Updated: Oct. 5, 2021 at 6:12 AM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Mecklenburg County has taken a visible step toward protecting workers.

During Tuesday’s Mecklenburg County Board of County Commissioners meeting, county leaders heard two proposals that would protect the LGBTQ community and others when it comes to how they express themselves and their identities. This includes how they wear their hair in the workplace.

The BOCC voted to advance an LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance after hearing comments from residents about the impact of these protections.

One of the proposals was limited to small businesses, while the other would expand existing law to protect those things in businesses of any size and in many public areas. The proposals ultimately gave more teeth to existing protections added to Charlotte’s nondiscrimination law in August.

Advocates urge the County Commission to swiftly finalize the ordinance, which requires a final vote. If approved, Mecklenburg County would become the 13th local government in NC to approve LGBTQ-inclusive non-discrimination protections.

“Tonight’s discussion reaffirms the importance of LGTBQ-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances, in Mecklenburg County and across the state,” Executive Director of Equality North Carolina Kendra Johnson said. “Measures like these will make Mecklenburg County a better place, especially for people with multiple layers of marginalization. We applaud the Commissioners for taking this action, and we encourage them to pass this NDO swiftly.”

Related: Charlotte leaders, community discuss proposed non-discrimination ordinance

Advocates say the changes have been a long time coming and they’re optimistic.

“It is important to me. Being a native Charlottean, being a black, cisgender, pansexual woman with natural hair, to be able to go into a workplace and be told to tone it down, that I’m too ethnic...” Quin Williams, community outreach director for Charlotte Black Pride, said.

On Monday, area LGBTQ organizations and allies urged the MCBOCC to strengthen and pass the nondiscrimination ordinance.

“Mecklenburg County can join Charlotte and 11 other cities and counties in North Carolina with fully comprehensive protections from discrimination, including discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and natural hairstyles,” a letter sent to county commissioners stated. “In doing so, Mecklenburg’s leaders will create a community where all people can thrive.”

Currently, state and federal law already ensures protections for the community within bigger businesses, but natural hair is not included – at least for now.

“It’s great to see the Mecklenburg County taking this step toward protections that will make the county a safer, more inclusive place to live, work, and visit,” Allison Scott, director of Impact & Innovation at the Campaign for Southern Equality said. “Now Commissioners must finalize the vote and join 12 other communities across North Carolina with strong nondiscrimination ordinances on the books. It’s time to ensure that no one is left vulnerable to discrimination in our state.”

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