Wake County discussed on Monday a new ordinance that would prohibit discrimination in employment and public accommodations based on race, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, veteran status, and several other characteristics.
For Pastor Vance Haywood, the nondiscrimination ordinance is about equality and fairness. He believes it protects members of the LGBTQ community from discrimination.
"I, myself faced that and was nearly fired from my job because I came out as gay," said Haywood, who is senior pastor of St. John's Metropolitan Community Church. "People still face discrimination every day because of who they are. They have to hide who they are and so, this gives people a chance to be able to be themselves, embrace who they are and feel protected for their livelihood."
Wake County Commissioners on Monday held a work session discussing the ordinance. It would protect those at work and in public places. That means any retail business open to the public at large like restaurants, grocery stores and hotels.
"We also want to protect our residents who are here. We want to signal to the world that if you come here and you work and you live and play in our community, you are safe," said Wake County Commissioner Chair Matt Calabria.
Raleigh's city council is set to discuss the ordinance Tuesday. Jonathan Melton is the first openly LGBTQ person elected citywide.
"For me personally, as a gay man, knowing I am protected when I am out with my fiancé, friends and family. That means the world to me and that's the kind of Raleigh I'm proud to represent," said Melton.
Pastor Vance spoke from experience when he said discrimination is something no one should ever experience.
"As long as people are able to discriminate in that way, it re-enforces other dangerous beliefs that put people in harm's way," said Haywood.
Wake County Commissioners are set to vote on this ordinance next Monday. In Raleigh, they will vote Tuesday. If both measures pass, they could take effect as early as February of next year.