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Buncombe County passes non-discrimination ordinance in unanimous vote

FILE - Downtown Asheville, North Carolina
FILE - Downtown Asheville, North Carolina (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

Buncombe County Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday to pass a controversial ordinance ban workplace discrimination based on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and more.

The measure was passed in a unanimous vote during the April 20, 2021, meeting. The ordinance is set to go into effect on July 1.

Read the full ordinance here:

SEVERAL COMMENTS, BUT NO VOTE ON BUNCOMBE COUNTY'S PROPOSED NON-DISCRIMINATION ORDINANCE

During Tuesday's meeting, the county attorney said the non-discrimination ordinance was meant to educate and would carry no criminal penalty.

“Regardless of where one falls on this issue, it’s important we listen to each other no matter how much we disagree,” Commission Chair Brownie Newman said. “I really support this and think it will make a difference in people’s lives.”

Buncombe County District 1 Commissioner Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, a vocal LGBTQ advocate, introduced the idea of an NDO, or non-discrimination ordinance at the March 2 briefing of the Board of Commissioners.

“This is an opportunity to step forward and closer to a reality where all people are treated fairly and have the opportunity to thrive helping to create public safety systems that truly protect all people,” Beach-Ferrara said in a statement after Tuesday's vote.

On Dec. 1, 2020, parts of House Bill 142 that prevented municipalities from creating their own NDOs expired. HB 142 is widely known as a compromise to the controversial "bathroom bill."

Since the expiration of that provision, several state municipalities, like Orange County and Hillsborough have passed their own NDOs. Buncombe leaders looked to those ordinances for guidance on creating their own.

AS NON-DISCRIMINATION ORDINANCES POP UP ACROSS NC, BUNCOMBE COUNTY CONSIDERS THEIR OWN

On Tuesday, April 6, Commissioners had a first reading of the ordinance but not before several residents are church leaders spoke out against it. The most common concerns were public input, impact on businesses and whether the ordinance would infringe on freedom of speech and religion for others.

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