by Danny Hooley
A RESOLUTION CELEBRATING AND AFFIRMING THE RIGHTS AND DIGNITY OF LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL, AND TRANSGENDER PEOPLE IN DURHAM AND THROUGHOUT NORTH CAROLINA AND CALLING FOR THE REPEAL OF SESSION LAW 2016-3/HOUSE BILL 2
WHEREAS, on February 22, 2016, the Charlotte City Council enacted a local ordinance that added marital status, familial status, sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression to the list of categories protected from discrimination in Charlotte’s city contracting and public accommodations; and
WHEREAS, on March 23, 2016, in response to that Charlotte ordinance, the North Carolina General Assembly in special session ratified, and Governor Pat McCrory signed, House Bill 2 (Session Law 2016-3), the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act; and
WHEREAS, House Bill 2 appears to repeal the Charlotte ordinance by establishing new statewide standards for what constitutes discriminatory practice in employment and public accommodations; and by establishing new statewide requirements for bathrooms and changing facilities in all public agencies, including schools; and
WHEREAS, the statute’s omission of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and other categories from the statewide list of categories protected from discrimination means that not only do protections on these other bases appear to be unavailable under state law, but also that local governments appear to be preempted from offering these important protections to their residents; and
WHEREAS, the legislation also appears to eliminate the right of any person to bring a civil action in the state courts of North Carolina for a claim of discrimination in employment or public accommodations on account of race, religion, color, national origin, age, or biological sex (as well as handicap for employment only); and
WHEREAS, the legislation appears to be inconsistent with the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution, which provides that no state shall deny to any person within its jurisdiction “the equal protection of the laws” (US Const amend XIV, § 1); and the legislation is mean-spirited and “born of animosity toward the class of persons affected” (Romer v Evans, 517 US 620 ); and
WHEREAS, the legislation has come under legal challenge in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, in a lawsuit filed by Equality North Carolina, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of North Carolina, and Lambda Legal, in which one of the plaintiffs is Angela Gilmore, a Durham resident and professor at the North Carolina Central University School of Law; and
WHEREAS, over 120 major CEOs and business leaders from across North Carolina and all over the United States have signed a letter to Governor McCrory in which they argue that the legislation (quoting their letter) “is not a bill that reflects the values of our companies, of our country, or even the overwhelming majority of North Carolinians” and strongly urging the Governor “and the leadership of North Carolina’s legislature to repeal this law in the upcoming legislative session”; and
WHEREAS, community organizations and business groups here in Durham have expressed their opposition to this legislation, including the Durham Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, the Durham People’s Alliance, and the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People; and
WHEREAS, Durham is an open and welcoming city dedicated to the principles of equality, diversity, acceptance, nondiscrimination, and full inclusion and engagement by any resident in the civil rights, benefits, and privileges of all residents regardless of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or genetic information.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED:
SECTION 1. The Durham City Council reaffirms its support for protecting and advancing the constitutional rights and equitable treatment of all of its residents and its opposition to discrimination in employment and public accommodations because of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or genetic information.
SECTION 2. The Durham City Council respectfully urges the North Carolina General Assembly to repeal House Bill 2 at the earliest opportunity.
SECTION 3. The Durham City Council respectfully calls on all businesses providing public accommodations in the City of Durham to show their support for the rights and dignity of all people by openly welcoming LGBT people to their places of business, by providing gender-nonspecific bathroom facilities for their customers and employees wherever practicable, and otherwise to encourage their customers and employees to use the bathroom facilities that most closely align with their gender identity.
SECTION 4.The Durham City Council asks the City Clerk to send copies of this resolution to the members of the Durham County delegation to the General Assembly, the chair of the Durham County Board of Commissioners, the Speaker of the North Carolina House, the President Pro Tem of the North Carolina Senate, and the Governor of North Carolina.,
This the seventh day of April, 2016.