Kasey Mayfield and other activists are advocating for a non-discrimination ordinance protecting LGBTQ+ people in Winston-Salem and Forsyth County after the passage of similar ordinances in nearby municipalities.
Mayfield is one-half of a same-sex couple that was denied wedding service in December from Warehouse on Ivy in Winston-Salem. She said she wants the city to broaden their protections of individuals like her against discrimination. As previously reported by Triad City Beat, Greensboro enacted an NDO in January that bans discrimination based on hairstyles and provides LGBTQ+ protections. NC Policy Watch reported that the city of Durham and Orange County — which includes Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Hillsborough — also passed a similar NDOs that included protections for LGBTQ+ individuals. In January, Raleigh updated their own nondiscrimination policy to be more strict according to Indy Week.
“It is weird feeling like in Greensboro where my office is, I’m technically protected, but when I come home, I’m not,” Mayfield said.
Mayfield and her fiancée, Brianna May, are members of the Non-Discrimination Ordinance Coalition, a newly-formed collective pushing for the passage of the ordinance made possible by the expiration of HB-142 in December 2020. HB-142, which partially replaced HB-2 — otherwise known as the anti-transgender bathroom bill — stated that no local government in NC “may enact or amend an ordinance regulating private employment practices or regulating public accommodations,” leaving potential for discriminatory practices to take place.
The NDO Coalition’s website states that they want an NDO in Winston-Salem to provide LGBTQ+ protections and ban hair discrimination.
“There’s actual harm being done in our community right now,” said Wake Forest University Associate Professor and NDO Coalition member THM Gellar-Goad. “And not just to LGBTQ people, but there are also employers in the area that discriminate on the basis of natural hairstyles.”
They are also asking for protection for those with medical conditions or disabilities, being defined as “any genetic information and ADA supported physiologic, mental or psychological condition or disorder; such as visual, speech or hearing impairments, HIV, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, epilepsy, cancer, emotional or mental illness and specific learning disabilities.” They have partnered with local advocacy groups such as North Star LGBTQ Community Center and LGBTQ Democrats of Forsyth County to achieve their goals.
Based on a draft of an NDO policy shared during a Feb. 9 community development meeting, the city currently has plans to enact a policy that reads as follows: “The policy of the City of Winston-Salem is, and shall be, to oppose any discrimination based on race, color, creed, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, pregnancy, handicap, age, political affiliation or national origin in any aspect of modern life.”
As a gay member of WFU faculty, Gellar-Goad regularly has students seek his advice in their own struggles with self-identity. He believes the ordinance would be beneficial to current and prospective students.
“Having this ordinance is a great way for the city to signal everyone is welcome here,” he said.
Although the NDO Coalition wants to see action right away, city council first wants to ensure a non-discrimination ordinance is enforceable. Winston-Salem City Councilmember Jeff MacIntosh, who represents the northwest ward, said such an ordinance has been discussed at recent city council meetings; however, defining details of the ordinance have yet to be made concrete.
“There hasn’t been a lot of conversation about specifics,” MacIntosh said. “It’s more about, Should we proceed? up to this point.”
At the community development meeting on Feb. 9, the idea of an ad hoc citizens non-discrimination study subcommittee dedicated to LGBTQ+ members in Winston-Salem was proposed. Council member Robert Clark, who represents the west ward, said he believes the potential subcommittee should discuss issues internally before the city establishes the ordinance. Councilmember Annette Scippio, who serves as vice chair and also represents the east ward, said while she is not opposed to such a group being established, a subcommittee should be formed for each marginalized group.
“Where we have known continuing discrimination issues, and we are sensitive to them, then we certainly need to have a group focused on those issues,” she said.
Kevin Mundy, representative of the southwest ward, stressed the ordinance should be passed as quickly as possible for economic and social reasons, stating potential residents could be turned away from coming to the city via an internet search.
“If you search, ‘gay in Winston-Salem’ what you find out is that businesses in Winston-Salem discriminate against gay people,” said Mundy, who is gay.
He continued, “I challenge you to Google and I think that’s the third story that you’ll find. We need to change that narrative that if you’re looking to move your company here, we’re gay-friendly and supportive.”
MacIntosh said he would likely vote in favor of the ordinance depending on its stipulations. He said city council wants to ensure the order could last a long time.
“We wanted something we could actually make stick versus something that is essentially a resolution,” he said.
According to City Attorney Angela Carmon, city council is currently discussing the details of a non-discrimination policy. During the February meeting, she stated that it could possibly take a maximum of three months for the item to be forwarded, depending on the desire of the committee; however, once it is in place, she and city manager Lee Garrity would have a 100-day period to enact enforcement policies.
While the agenda for the next city council meeting is not yet available, Meridith Martin, assistant to the city manager, said that the non-discrimination ordinance will continue to be discussed.
The NDO will be discussed at the next community development meeting on March 16. To learn more about the Non-Discrimination Coalition visit ndocoalition.com.Read Kasey Mayfield’s exclusive op-ed published by TCB here.