The Chapel Hill Town Council voted unanimously to enact protections for LGBTQ+ individuals in the workplace at a Wednesday Town Council meeting.
The new ordinance includes protections for sexuality and gender identity in public places and employment.
To learn more about getting a vaccine in Orange County, visit the Orange County Health Department's website.
Chapel Hill is the third town in North Carolina to adopt anti-discrimination rules for businesses after the state ban expired on Dec. 1. Hillsborough and Carrboro enacted similar ordinances Monday and Tuesday night, respectively.
Mayor Pam Hemminger opened the discussion by thanking members of the county government and Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle for their help in making the passage of these new rules possible. She said the elected leadership of Orange County’s four municipalities has been working collaboratively to pass these ordinances.
Council member Karen Stegman said at the meeting that she had been waiting on this vote since she joined the council.
"I’m just so proud that after this vote I will be able to say to the LGBTQ community, including my wife and my kids, that from this day forward not only are you welcome, but you are safe and you are protected in Chapel Hill,” Stegman said.
Former mayor Mark Kleinschmidt, who was Chapel Hill's first openly gay mayor, said at the meeting that he was moved by the council’s commitment to leading the charge in LGBTQ+ equality.
“This council that you’re a part of has stood at the cusp of history on LGBT equality and has led the state, and you do it again tonight,” Kleinschmidt said.
The council also received an overview of vaccine distribution in Orange County from Quintana Stewart, the director of the Orange County HealthDepartment.
Stewart said the bulk of Orange County residents in phase 1A of vaccine distribution (high-risk health care workers and long-term care staff) have been vaccinated.
Stewart said Wednesday that vaccinations for phase 1B, group 1 (those 75 and older) had begun in Orange County. North Carolina announced Thursday that individuals over the age of 65 are also able to begin getting vaccinated.
Stewart assured the Council that vaccine distribution is being handled as equitably as possible. She said phone systems have been put into place for the older age group that was having trouble with registering online.
“I don’t know that our phone system and our staffing levels were prepared for the demand that we received,” Stewart said. “But each day we continue to tweak our process and try to improve it.”
Stewart said the Orange County Health Department is still looking for both medical and non-medical volunteers. Those interested can contact the department at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Spring Semester at UNC
Darrell Jeter, director of Emergency Management and Planning at UNC, then gave an update on what spring semester at UNC will look like.
Jeter highlighted disciplinary actions that can be taken against students if they don’t comply with community standards. This includes restricted access to campus facilities, removal from campus housing, removal from in-person courses or removal from the university altogether.
Council member Michael Parker said he was concerned over the behavior of students in the fall, and asked what steps are being taken to ensure students won’t behave the same way during the spring semester.
“We recognize that there may be some decisions not to comply with those community standards,” Jeter said in response. “As I outlined earlier, their acknowledgment of the community standards and lack to adhere to them would position them to be open to those administrative and disciplinary actions.”