Gender identity, hairstyle protected by Wake County ordinance

As of February 1, 2022, any discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity or hairstyle, hair type or hair texture historically associated with race could violate Wake County codes.

The Wake County Council of Commissioners agreed to vote on an expanded non-discrimination order on October 18 on Monday.

“No one should be discriminated against [based on] who they are, ”said Matt Calabria, chair of the Wake County Council of Commissioners. “That’s it.”

The Wake County ordinance would affect parts of the county outside the city and town limits, unless other jurisdictions pass it. Raleigh City Council is expected to discuss the pending county order on Tuesday and consider expanding its own non-discrimination rules.

Wake and Raleigh County are said to be the 14th and 15th local governments to act on inclusive protections for LGBTQ since a statewide moratorium on local nondiscrimination orders ended in December 2020, according to the Southern Equality Campaign.

“Making our cities and counties more inclusive is the right thing to do,” Calabria said.

Protect natural hair

Chapter 34 of Title III of the Wake County Ordinance Code protects people from discrimination by private companies and employers “based on race, natural hair or hairstyles, ethnicity, creed, color. , sex, pregnancy, marital or family status, sexual orientation, gender. identity or expression, national origin or ancestry, marital or family status, pregnancy, national guard or veteran status, religious belief or disbelief, age or disability.

Under the nondiscrimination ordinance, echoing the CROWN Act, protected hairstyles are defined as any hairstyle, hair type or hair texture historically associated with race “such as, but not limited to, braids, strands, twists, curls or tight curls, cornrows, bantu knots and afros.

Wake County initially announced it would ban hair discrimination for county employees in March. Commissioner Shinica Thomas, the only black woman on the board, has led efforts to give county employees these protections.

Durham, Carrboro, and Greensboro all have additional protections against hair discrimination.

The county defines gender identity or expression as having or being perceived to have a gender identity, expression, appearance or behavior, “whether that identity, expression, appearance or behavior is different from that traditionally associated the sex assigned to that individual at birth.

Calabria said at Monday’s board meeting that the county had worked with the nonprofit Equality NC to draft the ordinance.

Bathrooms and religious institutions are not included in the ordinance, said deputy county lawyer Allison Cooper.

This story was originally published October 11, 2021 4:47 pm.

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Laura Brache is a reporter for The News & Observer in Raleigh, North Carolina, covering the effects of changing demographics on minority communities in the area. She is a multilingual multimedia journalist from North Carolina, born in Massachusetts and raised in the Dominican Republic.