Over the past several months, you may have heard about the progress that is underway regarding the passage of an expanded Non-Discrimination Ordinance in Winston-Salem. This fight stems back to March 2017, when in the wake of House Bill 2 (HB2), the controversial state law that excluded lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from statewide nondiscrimination protections, the General Assembly passed House Bill 142; also known as “the Compromise Bill.” HB142 partially repealed HB2, but in its place installed a ban on local governments from expanding local discrimination protections by enacting or amending any ordinance regulating private employment practices or regulating public accommodation. On December 1, 2020, that prohibition expired. Shortly thereafter the Non-Discrimination Ordinance Coalition, a volunteer organization dedicated solely to advocating for the expansion of non-discrimination protections in Winston-Salem and Forsyth County, was founded.
To that end, on Monday, March 22, 2021, the Winston-Salem City Council unanimously approved a “Phase One” package of non-discrimination resolutions and ordinance amendments. These new ordinances and policies vastly expanded protections, opposing discrimination based on “race, ethnicity, color, creed, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, pregnancy, veteran status, disability, age, marital status, familial status, protected hairstyle, political affiliation or national origin in any aspect of modern life.” Additionally, “Sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression” will be explicitly added to the city’s fair housing ordinance. Further, a Non-Discrimination Study Sub-Committee for the city’s Human Relations Commission will be established to focus on “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and/or Questioning, Intersex and Asexual and/or Ally (LGBTQIA+) matters.”
These expanded protections are a huge victory and a step in the right direction. I want to say thank you to all of the NDO Coalition volunteers, thank you to all of our supporters, and thank you to our business and community partners, for your tireless activism. Via the toolkit available on our website and developed by Equality NC and Campaign For Southern Equality, we saw over 500 members of our community write in to lend their support to this ordinance. Far more than many other municipalities. This had a direct impact on the expansion of protected classes and the speed at which these ordinances were passed through committee and council.
That said, the fight is far from over. Currently, the ordinance and policies only apply to city officials and do NOT apply to the private sector; however, “Phase Two” consists of city officials, over the next 100 days, studying ways to enforce non-discrimination regulations on private sector employment and in places of public accommodation.
Likewise, the NDO Coalition now shifts our focus to this “Phase Two.” I thank the city council, the city attorney’s office, and the city staff for all of their work on this issue thus far and look forward to assisting and supporting their efforts as they develop a mechanism of enforcement for our non-discrimination policy at the conclusion of the 100-day review window. We must protect our marginalized communities and reject bigotry in all forms. I stated after the passage of Phase One and I will reiterate it here, If we fail to offer protections in employment and places of public accommodations this policy is little more than performative activism, with narrow-in-scope changes and empty platitudes. Our citizens are relying on our representatives to pass an ordinance that fully protects our citizens in employment and places of public accommodations and not just on paper.
If you would like to join our advocacy efforts during our Phase Two push, there are many ways you can get involved. First, you can visit https://www.NDOcoalition.com. Become familiar with our roadmap and use the toolkit embedded under the “Advocacy” section of our website to message your local representatives and let them know you wish to see our non-discrimination policies expanded to places of public accommodations and in public employment practices. Even if you have already messaged them during Phase One, reach back out to them! Second, use our website contact form to inquire about volunteer opportunities. We will be canvassing throughout Phase Two, to educate and solicit support from the local business community for public accommodation non-discrimination protections. Third, help us spread awareness. Share our website and join us on our newly created socials at @NDOcoalition on Facebook and Instagram. Fourth, you can apply to the above-mentioned, newly-created Non-Discrimination Study Subcommittee of the city’s Human Relations Commission. Its goal is “to advise the HRC and City Council on critical issues and opportunities facing the LGBTQIA+ community and recommend policies and procedures that will advance social and economic equality for the LGBTQIA+ community.” To apply you must (1) be a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, (2) reside in Winston-Salem, and (3) commit to attending at least 75% of regularly scheduled monthly meetings on the first Thursday of each month at 4 PM, starting on July 1, 2021. Apply at http://bit.ly/LGBTQsubcommitteeWS.
The fight to expand non-discrimination protections in Winston-Salem is ongoing but with your help, we can extend these protections to all of our citizens. We look forward to working with the city and our community partners during Phase Two to ensure we make an assertive and enforceable Non-Discrimination Ordinance.