On Monday evening, the Winston-Salem city council passed a long-awaited package that extends protections to members of the LGBTQ+ community as well as other marginalized groups within city limits. The package, which was approved unanimously, will almost immediately protect city employees from discrimination. But how the city plans to enforce violations by private businesses remains to be seen. The plan for now, according to City Attorney Angela Carmon, is for her office to bring recommendations to council in the next 100 days for stricter guidelines and enforcement measures.
Winston-Salem became one of the latest municipalities in the state to pass a non-discrimination ordinance. In January, neighboring Greensboro passed an NDO that protects LGBTQ+ individuals as well as people with hairstyles based on race or national origin. Winston-Salem’s NDO also protects people from discrimination against hairstyles, disabilities, veteran status, religion, pregnancy, martial status or familial status.
Kasey Mayfield, who, along with her fiancé, was discriminated against by a local venue because she and her fiancé are gay, said in a statement to Triad City Beat that she’s excited that the city passed the NDO but looks forward to how it will be enforced to protect others like her.
“I am grateful to city council for taking this first step towards protecting LGBTQ+ rights,” Mayfield said. “I hope we use the 100-day period to strengthen it and protect our community. Being protected in employment, healthcare and public spaces is imperative to the safety of queer people.”
Councilmember Robert Clark of the West Ward outlined what the NDO does and does not do. He mentioned that issues such as which bathrooms transgender individuals may use, or which sports teams they will be allowed to play on, will not be affected by this NDO as of yet. Whether or not businesses can deny services to LGBTQ+ people based on religion is also unclear.
“This ordinance does not affect those issues,” Clark said. “Those issues are still churning in the country and it is going to be up to Washington to address them.”
According to a CNN article analyzing the facts of the Masterpiece Cakeshop Supreme Court case, “the court limited its decision to the specifics of this case — mainly how the Colorado Civil Rights Commission handled Phillips’ claim. The court did not rule that the Constitution grants the right to discriminate but maintained the longstanding principle that business owners cannot deny equal access to goods and services.” The fact remains that the case doesn’t dictate how businesses can act across the board when it comes to religious beliefs.
Enforcement of the Greensboro NDO will be decided by July 1, when a $500 penalty for businesses that violate the ordinance goes into effect.
Chris Smith with the NDO Coalition said in a statement that without proper enforcement, the new ordinance is mostly “performative activism.”
“We must protect our marginalized communities and reject bigotry in all forms,” Smith said. “In order to do this effectively, we must, absolutely must, develop a mechanism of enforcement for this policy at the conclusion of the 100 day review window. Our citizens are relying on this.”
To learn more about the NDO, download this document.
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