Marion Johnson, Think NC First Policy Analyst
2014 was a groundbreaking year for LGBT equality in North Carolina. Amendment One was ruled unconstitutional, and North Carolina counties have been issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples since October. Now it’s time for North Carolina to use this momentum and take the next step towards full equality.
Even though marriage equality is now the law of the land, a recent HRC report still ranked North Carolina below the national average for overall LGBT equality.
“There are a lot of measures across the state where the Tar Heel state unfortunately lags behind the rest of the country, and also where municipalities across North Carolina don't have LGBT protections where they should and can have those.” – Chris Sgro, Equality NC[i]
The annual report ranks states and municipalities using over 40 criteria over 6 different categories, including non-discrimination laws, relationship recognition, and transgender-inclusive insurance coverage.[ii] North Carolina earned 50 out of 100 points; the national average is 59 points.[iii]
There’s one simple but crucial step North Carolina could take to increase its ranking in 2015. Right now, North Carolina is one of 30 states that lack anti-discrimination laws for sexual orientation or gender identity. That means that there’s no law protecting an employee from being fired when his boss finds out – or even suspects – that he is gay or transgender. It also means that LGBT workers are less likely to move to North Carolina for a job, and more likely to take their skills and tax dollars to a state with better employment protections.
“Employment non-discrimination has certainly stood out, probably the most prominently over time, and really is the place that presents a huge problem. If you can't come out in the workplace it's very, very difficult to live your life as who you are, and that's really a basic right that people deserve.” – Chris Sgro[iv]
Adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected groups – a list that includes race, religion, and gender – would signal that North Carolina is a progressive place to work and do business, and make North Carolina a much safer place for the LGBT community.
[i] Elaina O’Connell. (November 13, 2014). “North Carolina ranks below the national average for LGBT Equality.” Available at http://triadnc.twcnews.com/content/news/713911/report--north-carolina-ranks-below-the-national-average-for-lgbt-equality/
[ii] Human Rights Campaign. (2014). The Municipal Equality Index. Available at http://www.hrc.org/resources/entry/mei-2014-see-your-citys-score
[iii] See note i.