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Charlotte is the second most progressive city for gays in NC, study reveals

Members of the audience hold up signs on Feb. 22 before the start of a Charlotte City Council meeting set to vote on a nondiscrimination ordinance to extend rights to LGBT people.
Members of the audience hold up signs on Feb. 22 before the start of a Charlotte City Council meeting set to vote on a nondiscrimination ordinance to extend rights to LGBT people. rlahser@charlotteobserver.com

The safest, most inclusive city in North Carolina for lesbian and gay people is Greensboro, with Charlotte in second place, based on a nationwide assessment of LGBTQ equality released this week by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.

Ten cities in North Carolina were among the 506 cities included in the study: Cary, west of Raleigh, was the lowest ranked.

The average score for cities in North Carolina is 51 out of 100 points, which falls below the national average of 55.

There is irony in Charlotte coming in second place. The state’s House Bill 2 was passed earlier this year by the General Assembly to keep a Charlotte non discrimination law from going into effect to add protections for gay people.

HB2 was pushed into law by state leaders who singled out the fact that Charlotte’s law would have allowed transgender men and women to use the restroom of their gender identity. HB2 nullified all city nondiscrimination policies like Charlotte’s, forcing municipalities to rely on the state’s nondiscrimination law, which does not include LGBTQ people.

Passage of HB2 prompted a national outcry against the state’s Republican leaders, and it led to boycotts by sporting events, conventions and businesses.

“In the wake of HB2 and terrible state legislative overreach, it’s more important now than ever for strong municipal leadership to pave the way for LGBT rights,” said Chris Sgro of Equality North Carolina, in a statement. “While Charlotte and other pro-LGBT leaders were attacked by the legislature, they are moving the ball forward on non-discrimination protections.”

Eight cities in South Carolina were included in the survey and the top ranked was Charleston, followed by Clemson and the state capital of Columbia. At the bottom of the eight was Rock Hill, which is just south of Charlotte in York County.

Organizers say the index used a rating system of LGBTQ inclusion in municipal law and policy. The study shows that cities across the country continue to take the lead in supporting LGBTQ people and workers, even when states and the federal government have not, said organizers.

For LGBTQ Americans, legal protections and benefits vary widely depending on location: States and cities have markedly different laws governing discrimination, said survey organizers. Twenty states have non-discrimination laws that include protections for LGBTQ people in employment, and 19 states have laws that protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in places of public accommodation.

Since the survey’s debut in 2012, the number of cities earning perfect scores has more than quintupled, organizers say.

Following are the scores for the 10 North Carolina cities included in the survey. The full report is online at www.hrc.org/mei.

City

State

Score

Greensboro

North Carolina

80

Charlotte

North Carolina

73

Durham

North Carolina

69

Chapel Hill

North Carolina

68

Raleigh

North Carolina

59

Carrboro

North Carolina

57

Winston-Salem

North Carolina

44

Fayetteville

North Carolina

23

Wilmington

North Carolina

21

Cary

North Carolina

18

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