Fayetteville in a battle for even considering helping gays

Battles over protecting gay and transgender people from discrimination go on.
Battles over protecting gay and transgender people from discrimination go on. AP file photo

So this is how far we’ve come in the enlightened state of North Carolina in 2018: The Values Police raise hell if a city dares to even listen to complaints around discrimination for sexual orientation.

Crippling North Carolina’s reputation with the discriminatory HB2 wasn’t enough. With that embarrassment erased from the books, the obsession with looking down upon gay and transgender people has to take other forms.

The latest battlefront: Fayetteville, where the Human Relations Commission has the gall to want to update, for the first time in 50 years, the ordinance governing it. The City Council on Monday night was scheduled to debate the commission’s request to add “sexual orientation, gender identity and veteran status” to the list of categories for which the commission can investigate complaints, the Fayetteville Observer reports.

This update is such a threat to the way of life in North Carolina, apparently, that the NC Values Coalition – a small group with more bark than bite – feels the need to come to the rescue of those Fayetteville businesses that want to be left in peace when discriminating against gay employees or customers.

The group has started a petition and lobbying effort, claiming that the change would violate House Bill 142. That’s the law that replaced HB2, and it blocks cities from passing new non-discrimination ordinances until at least 2020. The city would be “openly violating state law” if it made the change, the group’s petition says.

Under that and other pressure, the City Council late Friday pulled the item from their Monday night agenda, the Fayetteville Observer reported.

But as the petition itself point outs, HB142 prevents cities from passing ordinances “regulating private employment practices or regulating public accommodations.” The proposal in Fayetteville does not do that. It simply permits the city’s Human Relations Commission – a body with no regulatory authority – to hear and look into complaints. The group could try to mediate a resolution, but it has no ability to punish anyone or ban anything.

This change merely reflects the times we live in – that is, a world in which there are biases against people because of whom they love just as surely as there are still prejudices against people because of the color of their skin. That the NC Values Coalition and some local pastors want to ensure that such instances of discrimination are not even brought to anyone’s attention reveals plenty about their motives.

It’s sad that the Fayetteville proposal is the kind of baby step a city can legally take under our misguided legislature, and it’s sadder still that such a step is necessary. Much of the nation has gotten beyond the culture wars of sexual orientation and gender identity. In North Carolina, there are some who take every opportunity to continue the fight.