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Garner approves Wake County non-discrimination ordinance

 A 2020 photo of Garner's water tower.
Keith Hall
via Flickr
A 2020 photo of Garner's water tower.

The Garner town council unanimously approved Wake County’s non-discrimination ordinance Tuesday, becoming the seventh community in the county to do so.

The ordinance bans discrimination based on factors not covered by federal or state law, such as gender identity, sexual orientation and natural hair. People who feel they have been discriminated against can file a complaint with the county and go through a dispute resolution process handled by Campbell University Law School.

County commissioners passed the measure last year, but it only applied to unincorporated areas. Each city and town in the county must pass their own version.

"I think it's a good signal to communities, people that don't know Garner, to know who we are,” council member Demian Dellinger said before the vote.

Garner town manager Rodney Dickerson emphasized the ordinance fills gaps in federal discrimination protections.

“This community is not for discrimination in any form or fashion,” Dickerson said. “And there are some things that are covered in federal statutes, protected classes. But there are some things that are not. And there are people in the community that have experienced discrimination based on some of these things.”

While the ordinance passed unanimously, council member Gra Singleton raised concerns about its effectiveness.

“I think it’s a symbolic type of ordinance, to let people know your community is open-minded,” Singleton said. “I was surprised by the lack of teeth in the ordinance itself.”

At a June 28 work session, Singleton asked Garner town attorney Terri Jones about what would happen if a business subject to complaint did not take part in the resolution process. Jones explained that a person alleging discrimination would still have the right to file a civil lawsuit.

“If someone feels they’ve been discriminated against, they’re still going to have to go through the legal process,” Singleton said before Tuesday night’s vote.

Garner joins Raleigh, Cary, Knightdale, Apex, Morrisville, and Wendell in adopting the ordinance. Town councils in Holly Springs, Fuqay-Varina, Zebulon, Rolesville and Wake Forest have yet to vote on it.

Bradley George is WUNC's AM reporter. A North Carolina native, his public radio career has taken him to Atlanta, Birmingham, Nashville and most recently WUSF in Tampa. While there, he reported on the COVID-19 pandemic and was part of the station's Murrow award winning coverage of the 2020 election. Along the way, he has reported for NPR, Marketplace, The Takeaway, and the BBC World Service. Bradley is a graduate of Guilford College, where he majored in Theatre and German.
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