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City attorney will gather more information for Salisbury nondiscrimination ordinance

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Discussion of a nondiscrimination ordinance for the city was put on hold Tuesday in an effort to gather more information and ensure it’s inclusive and suitable for the city.

Formulating such an ordinance was among the goals set during the council’s retreat last month. Council member Tamara Sheffield has said it’s important the ordinance is unique to the city of Salisbury.

But as City Attorney Graham Corriher continues to gather and provide information about other cities’ ordinances, Sheffield said it’s important to wait and ensure all the right information is obtained and that all necessary parties are brought to the table.

“We don’t need to rush this because we need to do it right,” Sheffield told the Post.

Several cities across the state have formed such ordinances, and Corriher has used them as guidance to draft one that he provided to council members prior to Tuesday’s meeting, when it was pulled from the agenda. That draft ordinance states, “The policy of the City of Salisbury is, and shall be, to oppose discrimination based on race, ethnicity, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, national ancestry, marital status, familial status, pregnancy, veteran status, religion, religious belief or non-belief, age, or disability in any aspect of modern life.”

The draft also calls on the city manager and city attorney to include a nondiscrimination provision in all contracts of city employees as well as grants from the city.

“Equity, diversity and inclusion are cornerstones of a strong local economy and commercial activities within Salisbury should support economic growth and not hamper it,” the draft states. “The city will not tolerate illegal discrimination and encourages Salisbury’s corporate and individual community members to oppose discrimination in all forms. All citizens of Salisbury, individual and corporate, are hereby requested and urged to use their power and influence to the end that Salisbury shall be a community that is committed to providing, and does in fact provide, equal opportunity for all citizens.”

Corriher told the Post that he expects to return to council with additional options in the coming months, signaling that the process could take some time.

There are currently state and federal laws in place that provide protection, and the city has various policies that deter harassment and discrimination. But Sheffield said what’s currently in place doesn’t protect every class.

“Passing an ordinance states that this is the example we are setting and that others should abide,” Sheffield said. “We’re all growing and learning everyday. We have to keep doing that. That makes Salisbury the place to live.”

Cities such as Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill have moved to adopt similar ordinances following the expiration of certain sections of a state law passed in 2017 to repeal the controversial “House Bill 2.” That bill omitted protections for sexual orientation as well as gender identity and expression and required all multiple-person bathrooms in government buildings be designated for use based on someone biological sex only.

Two prohibitions in the 2017 law forbid units of local government from enacting or amending an ordinance “regulating public accommodations” or “regulating private employment practices.” Both prohibitions expired in 2020.

In Chapel Hill’s ordinance, passed in January, it’s unlawful for any “person in a place of public accommodation to deny the full enjoyment of the accommodations, advantages, facilities or privileges thereof on the basis of race, ethnicity, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, national ancestry, marital status, familial status, pregnancy, veteran status, religion, religious belief or non-belief, age or disability.”

That ordinance also defines “gender identity” or “gender expression” as “having or being perceived as having gender-related identity, expression, appearance or behavior, whether or not that identity, expression, appearance or behavior is different from that traditionally associated with the sex assigned to that individual at birth.”

Carrboro included in its ordinance a section related to penalties for discriminatory practices, citing them as class three misdemeanors under current state law, which carries a fine of $500.

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

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