The secretary of the North Carolina Department of Administration, Machelle Sanders, appointed Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle to the new N.C. Commission on Inclusion, which was created to identify policies that advocate for inclusion and address discrimination.
Lavelle joins other leaders of local governments, private businesses and nonprofit organizations across the state on the commission.
“I’m really hopeful that we set some policies that other agencies and groups will want to follow,” Lavelle said.
Governor Roy Cooper established the commission in October 2017, under Executive Order No. 24, which aimed to create policies that prohibit discrimination in state employment, services and contracts that fall under the jurisdiction of the governor’s office.
Under North Carolina law, local governments cannot create anti-discrimination protections until 2020.
Lavelle, who has long been a champion of minority rights, hopes the commission will help to make the state a safer place for the LGBT community while working within the confines of current state law.
As a gay woman, Lavelle said she has seen firsthand the importance of inclusive policies.
“It affects you in so many ways that you really aren’t even aware of unless you live through it day-by-day,” Lavelle said. “You realize all the places where you bump up against potential discrimination or potentially being treated differently just because you are not of a traditional sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Lavelle, who is a law professor at North Carolina Central University, has also studied and written about anti-discrimination practices and their influence on LGBT people.
Under Lavelle, Carrboro began constructing gender-neutral bathrooms in new government buildings and grants given by the town now require recipients to include a statement of inclusion in their bylaws.
Those who have worked with Lavelle are confident she will make a great addition to the commission.
“She is one of the most fair and equitable people that I know and is always willing to listen and look at all sides,” Carrboro Board of Aldermen member Barbara Foushee said.
Foushee said she got to see the Mayor’s passion for inclusiveness while walking with Lavelle in Carrboro’s 2018 Pride Parade.
“I saw a fire in her I have not seen before and just a pride for what she was advocating for,” Foushee said.
Other members of the Commission agree Lavelle will provide a unique voice to the work they are starting.
“Having someone who has been actively working in her community and creating opportunities for the representation of diverse communities is always going to be important,” said LaWana Mayfield, Commission of Inclusion member and Charlotte City Council member.
“It is definitely a win for Mayor Lavelle to be on (the commission) because Lydia brings a perspective to the conversation that is going to be received well in our space."