Asheville – The latest draft of Buncombe County Commissioner Jasmine Beach-Ferrara’s proposed non-discrimination ordinance is now available at buncombecounty.org webiste.Representatives of all religious orders or public-facing organizations might want to read the five-page policy to make sure nothing they hold sacred is being jeopardized. The commissioners are planning to take public comment at their April 6 meeting.
The ordinance asks employers, persons and businesses dealing with the public not to treat protected classes differently from others, and it adds to the federally-protected classes so the group now includes, “race, natural hair or hairstyles, ethnicity, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin or ancestry, marital or familial status, pregnancy, veteran status, religious belief or non-belief, age, or disability.” Exemptions are made for bonafide, work-related identifiers; for example, a peer-to-peer therapy service for veterans would likely be allowed to connect veterans with veterans.
Equal protection under the Civil Rights Act also means “separate but equal” no longer would pass Constitutional muster for shared restrooms, showers, dressing rooms, hair salons, OBGYN offices, or any other place where physiology used to matter.
An important consideration in this kind of legislation is whether or not it violates other rights taken for granted by Americans, such as the freedoms of speech, assembly, and religion. Nothing in the ordinance appears to require, for example, mastery of the new and evolving lexicon, although policy analysts are of the belief the Federal Equality Act (HR5) will. The ordinance even carves out exemptions for religious organizations and businesses with large legal teams like insurers, hospitals, and their affiliates.