Town Council commits to nondiscrimination with new ordinance

Town+council+member+Samuel+Furgiuele%2C+Jr.+poses+at+his+desk+in+his+office+on+King+Street.+During+the+pandemic%2C+Furgiuele+has+attended+weekly+council+meetings+over+Webex+from+his+office.

Kara Haselton

Town council member Samuel Furgiuele, Jr. poses at his desk in his office on King Street. During the pandemic, Furgiuele has attended weekly council meetings over Webex from his office.

Cameron Stuart, Reporter

The Boone Town Council passed a General Non-Discrimination ordinance March 16 with a vote of 4-1.

Town council members received opposition from some community members after it was first proposed.

The ordinance  prohibits any discrimination based on “actual or perceived age, mental or physical disability, sex, religion, creed, race, color, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, familial or marital status, economic status, veteran status or national origin in any aspect of modern life.”

An ordinance is “a law set forth by a governmental authority,” specifically, a municipal regulation, according to Merriam-Webster.

Administrations, committees, commissions and boards are told to use their power and resources to prohibit any form of discrimination to enforce the ordinance. The town manager is also directed to create policies against discrimination, as well as include a nondiscrimination provision in contracts and grants.

Allison Meade, attorney and founder of Meade Law, submitted the ordinance to the town council.

“This is an important first step, especially coming from nothing,” said Dustin Hicks, town council member. “But at the same time, this is something we do need to continue going forward with as well to figure out ways that we can provide protection for people in places that have been denied, for a very long time, employment and housing and other things.”

Town council member Sam Furgiuele said that this is an important statement for the council to make, but that the discussion about nondiscrimination should continue.

The ordinance will be added to the Town of Boone Code of Ordinances.

A total of 98 emails were sent, and 24 phone calls were made in opposition to the ordinance. John Ward, town manager, said that around 50% of those emails were copied and pasted.

Community members David Jones, Jana Jones, Todd Chasteen and Jennifer Gregorin expressed safety concerns about people who weren’t assigned female at birth being allowed into women’s bathrooms and locker rooms.

In 2016, North Carolina passed House Bill 2, which “prevented transgender people in the state from using bathrooms that aligned with their gender identity,” according to NBC

This led to national backlash, and a year later, the state passed House Bill 142, which “prohibited state agencies from regulating access to multiple-occupancy restrooms without the General Assembly’s consent,” according to the same article. However, the bill prevented local governments from passing any regulations on anti-discrimination until Dec. 1, 2020.

On the other hand, community member Voris Johnson believed the ordinance does not go far enough, as there are no enforcement mechanisms in place, and private businesses are not included.

Furgiuele said he respects people’s differences of opinion, but many people’s responses were based on misinformation. 

Furgiuele also noted that throughout U.S. history, there has always been backlash after attempts of inclusivity.

“People don’t like change, and I get that,” Furgiuele said. “When it comes down to the way people are treated, though, I think we all do need to stand and be leaders and step forward to say we don’t support discrimination of any kind in this community. We are an all-inclusive community; people should be evaluated on their individual merits, not on the classifications and artificial lines that we draw.”