Starting July 1, it will be against the law for Buncombe County employers to discriminate based on things like race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity. The discrimination ban extends to private businesses and public accommodations.
“It’s a little emotional for me, but I think that’s OK,” said commissioner Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, a member and advocate of the LGBTWQ community.
Beach-Ferrara said the commission’s unanimous vote Tuesday makes Buncombe County the seventh community in North Carolina to pass a nondiscrimination ordinance.
“I want to live and raise my children in a community where everyone is genuinely bestowed with the virtues of dignity and liberty,” commissioner Parker Sloan said, voicing his support for the ordinance.
Ahead of the vote, commissioners heard from a mix of public opinions.
“I hope none of you ever have your right to live work and exist in public put up for debate, it’s dehumanizing and it’s a horrible, horrible experience,” said Allison Scott, voicing support for the measure.
Not all supported the ordinance.
“We’re living in the middle of the Bible Belt, and, when a transgender male walks into a bathroom where grandpa’s little granddaughter is, it’s not going to look pretty. You cant stop that, but you can reword this ordinance,” Roger Frizzell said.
Beach-Ferrara addressed those against the ordinance.
“I also know that other Christians disagree and condemn me and other people like me,” she said. “Let me say clearly, especially to those people who called in and who I’ve been in touch with who oppose this ordinance, I extend love to you.”
Michael Frue, Buncombe County’s attorney, said the idea of this ordinance is not to penalize but rather to educate.
Businesses that are found in noncompliance of the ordinance will receive a $100 civil penalty. Businesses that still do not comply after that can receive separate offenses every 24 hours the issue is not corrected.
Beach-Ferrara said county officials will be working with businesses for the next couple months to prepare them for the ordinance.