The Wake County Board of Commissioners today joined Campbell Law School, the City of Raleigh and the towns of Knightdale and Morrisville to celebrate the expansion of an anti-discrimination resource for the community. The county, law school and these cities and towns are partnering to allow residents who believe a business or organization has discriminated against them to file a complaint and receive assistance resolving the claim.
“This is what it looks like when a community comes together and empower our residents and visitors to stand up against discrimination,” said Sig Hutchinson, Chair of the Wake County Board of Commissioners. “We don’t just make statements that equality, fairness, and inclusion are important in our community, we give our residents and visitors actual tools to help ensure it.”
Wake County unanimously passed its Non-Discrimination Ordinance in October, however, it would only apply to unincorporated areas, not to areas within Wake County’s 12 cities and towns. But within hours of being passed by Commissioners, the City of Raleigh signed on Knightdale passed in February and Morrisville unanimously voted to join in March, bringing more than half a million people under the protection of the ordinance.
“The fact that all of these towns are getting behind these protections will have meaningful and personal impact on making residuals for years to come,” said Shinica Thomas, vice-chair of the Wake County Board of Commissioners. “This collective effort firmly demonstrates to businesses, employees, residents and visitors that Wake County is the kind of place where everyone can live, work and raise a family while feeling safe and supported in who they are.”
Now, thanks to a partnership with Campbell Law School, Wake County and these municipalities will be able to harness the legal expertise of the university’s Restorative Justice Clinic when discrimination complaints are filed.
“Our clinic just had remarkable success in resolving disputes in our public schools, in our prisons, and in criminal cases…all led by our nationally recognized Political Professor John Powell,” explained Campbell Law School Dean Rich Leonard. “When we saw this ordinance coming into being with its conciliation process, I immediately knew there was no one better in this community to serve to provide this service. Under Professor Powell’s leadership, it will provide a confidential and respectful forum to attempt to resolve disputes, and at the same time provide my students with an amazing opportunity.”
On behalf of the City of Raleigh, Council member Jonathan Melton took time to thank the Campaign for Southern Equality and Equality NC for their advocacy on this issue. He offered to be a resource to assist any other towns hoping to follow in the footsteps of Raleigh, Knightdale and Morrisville.
“I think it is really important that we make sure that we're on the same page and that anywhere you go in Wake County, you're provided the same protection,” said Council Member Melton. “There are three of us here today, and I know the Town of Apex passed its own, but there's eight more towns and what I say to you is, ‘Please join us.’”
Several more municipalities in the county have indicated they are moving forward to consider adopting this centralized non-discrimination ordinance. Knightdale’s Mayor said it’s a critical issue as Wake County continues to grow.
“Knightdale has put so much effort toward being a diverse, inclusive community, but also having that sense of belonging,” said Knightdale Mayor Jessica Day. “We constantly have those conversations when we are planning things: How do we make sure that our community is embracing the diversity that we have, as we continue to grow? How do we make sure that we keep that diversity within our community?”
Residents can file a complaint at WakeGov.com/StopDiscrimination. If the complaint falls within the county’s jurisdiction and is factually validated, the county will offer a conciliation process to help resolve the dispute.
“We make an impact when we stand with organizations like Equality NC and the NAACP and say that discrimination will not be tolerated in our town and it's important to get that down on paper and have processes to combat that,” said Morrisville Council member Anne Robotti. “Morrisville has always been a diverse and welcoming community and I genuinely hope that they will always remain so and that no one will ever need to take advantage of the protections offered by these ordinances.”
Protected classes covered under the ordinance include: race, natural hair or hairstyles, ethnicity, creed, color, sex, pregnancy, marital or familial status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin or ancestry, National Guard or veteran status, religious belief or non-belief, age or disability.