House Bill 2 passed March 23 in the state legislature, limiting local ordinances from protecting against LGBT discrimination and forcing citizens to use bathrooms based on their gender at birth.
The law also stops localities from expanding minimum wage laws and other business interests past the state’s standard.
Town Attorney Ralph Karpinos gave a briefing on the legality of the town’s current statutes on nondiscrimination in a special meeting March 28, which was called in response to House Bill 2.
While the town of Chapel Hill has not had a nondiscrimination ordinance as wide-ranging as Charlotte’s, it did not allow discrimination in employment or in third-party contractors based on sexual orientation or identification.
According to Karpinos, the policy for state employees and contractors is not in danger of change.
If the town government wishes to continue to protect their employees from being fired because of their sexual identification, they may do so. But job termination still falls under the jurisdiction of local businesses.
“Well, in Chapel Hill we do not discriminate, and we’re not going to change our values,” Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger said. “Our businesses have been very helpful with that, too.”
Hemminger said she was still upset by the bill.
“I am very disappointed in (HB2),” Hemminger said. “They pushed this bill so quickly, they didn’t give our representatives a chance to say anything.”
She discussed plans of adding gender-neutral bathrooms to public buildings, including the public library.
Hemminger also said Chapel Hill is planning on joining the Metropolitan Mayors Coalition, an association of North Carolina’s 32 biggest cities, in condemning this law for taking away local control.
“Who’s going to be the bathroom checker for your birth certificate?” Hemminger said. “The bill was focused on discriminating against the LGBT community.”
Chapel Hill Town Council member Nancy Oates said she wants to begin a conversation through town halls to talk as a community about what this new law means, and to hear residents’ thoughts.
“I think it’s ridiculous and scary,” Oates said. “It is taking us back to a time I thought had been resolved from when I was a college student. Now, my kids are growing up and we’re fighting the same battles all over again.”