The State of North Carolina should, indeed, pass fully inclusive non-discrimination laws at the state level. However, Charlotte need not and should not wait for the State of North Carolina to act on these critical protections. Discrimination problems exist at the local level, and Charlotte should work to extend these important protections right now. Federal civil rights law is a work in progress, and it is not as comprehensive or explicit as the proposed municipal non-discrimination ordinances. While some of the non-discrimination protections would overlap to a certain extent with federal protections, the local ordinances would extend these protections clearly, directly, and immediately. Further, it would provide another enforcement mechanism, thereby expanding the efficacy of the protections. It is Charlotte’s responsibility to ensure that all residents of and visitors to Charlotte are treated with dignity and respect, and passing inclusive non-discrimination ordinances would be a statement of the city’s values. Proclaiming that Charlotte is a city where diversity is celebrated and people respect one another is a fundamental part of the city’s character and has many powerful reverberations; however, updating non-discrimination ordinances would be more than a symbol. Such public statements have very real consequences. For example, in a recent survey conducted by the Human Rights Campaign, 92% of LGBT youth said that they hear negative messages about being LGBT. Sixty percent of these youth said that they hear such messages from their elected leaders. About a third of LGBT youth surveyed said that their local government is not accepting, and 63% said that they will need to move to another town or part of the country to feel accepted (they are twice as likely as their straight peers to say that they will need to move to feel accepted).
Inclusive non-discrimination ordinances would provide these young people, as well as the many other individuals who face discrimination, with a city where they could feel accepted.