LGBT rights in North Carolina
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Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in the U.S. state of North Carolina may face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents, or LGBT residents of other states with more liberal laws.
Same-sex sexual activity is legal in North Carolina, and the state has recognized same-sex marriage since October 10, 2014. However, an amendment to a bill prohibiting discrimination against LGBT persons in charter schools has not been signed into law.
- 1Laws regarding same-sex sexual activity
- 2Recognition of same-sex relationships
- 3Adoption rights
- 4Discrimination protections
- 5Hate crime law
- 6Conversion therapy
- 7Summary table
- 8See also
Laws regarding same-sex sexual activity
The U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Lawrence v. Texas (2003) held laws criminalizing consensual homosexual activity between adults unconstitutional.
In State v. Whiteley (2005), the North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled that the crime against nature statute, N.C. G.S. § 14-177, is not unconstitutional on its face because it may properly be used to criminalize sexual conduct involving minors, non-consensual or coercive conduct, public conduct, and prostitution.
The state’s sodomy law, though unenforceable, has not been repealed.
Recognition of same-sex relationships
Main article: Same-sex marriage in North Carolina
North Carolina has recognized same-sex marriages since October 14, 2014, when a federal court decision found the state’s denial of marriage rights to same-sex couples unconstitutional. The state formerly banned same-sex marriage and all other types of same-sex unions both by statute and by constitutional amendment until the ban was overturned by a federal court decision.
North Carolina had previously denied marriage rights to same-sex couples by statute since 1996. A state constitutional amendment that was approved in 2012 reinforced that by defining marriage between a man and a woman as the only valid “domestic legal union” in the state and denying recognition to any similar legal status, such as civil unions.
Constitutional banCounty-level results of the vote on Amendment 1, amending the N.C. state Constitution to ban same-sex marriages and civil unions.
In September 2011, the North Carolina General Assembly passed North Carolina Senate Bill 514 (2011) which put an amendment banning any form of same-sex unions on the primary election ballot in May 2012. The measure passed on a vote of 30–16 in the state Senate and a vote of 74–42 in the state House.
Voters approved the amendment by 61% to 39% on May 8, 2012. North Carolina was the 30th state, and the last of the former Confederate states, to adopt a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. The amendment added to Section XVI of the Constitution of North Carolina:
Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State. This section does not prohibit a private party from entering into contracts with another private party; nor does this section prohibit courts from adjudicating the rights of private parties pursuant to such contracts.
See also: Same-sex marriage in North Carolina § Lawsuits
On April 28, 2014, the United Church of Christ and other religious organizations filed General Synod of the United Church of Christ v. Cooper, arguing that North Carolina’s statute that makes it a crime to preside at the solemnization of the marriage of a couple that lacks a valid state marriage license unconstitutionally restricts religious freedom. On October 10, District Court Judge Max O. Cogburn, Jr. ruled the state’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.
On June 13, 2012, six same-sex couples filed a federal lawsuit, Fisher-Borne v. Smith, that initially sought the right to obtain second-parent adoptions. In July 2013, following the U.S. Supreme Court decision in United States v. Windsor in June, they amended their suit to challenge the constitutionality of the state’s denial of marriage rights to same-sex couples. Briefing was completed on August 13, 2014. On April 9, 2014, the American Civil Liberties Union filed Gerber v. Cooper in the United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, seeking state recognition of same-sex marriages established outside of North Carolina. Plaintiffs are three couples: Ginter-Mejia and Esmeralda Mejia, Jane Blackburn and Lyn McCoy, Pearl Berlin and Ellen W. Gerber. A judge has not yet been assigned in this case. On October 14, U.S. District Judge William Osteen ruled for the plaintiffs.
Domestic partnershipMap of North Carolina counties and cities that offer domestic partner benefits either county-wide or in particular cities.
City offers domestic partner benefits
County-wide partner benefits through domestic partnership
County or city does not offer domestic partner benefits
The counties of Durham, Orange, Mecklenburg, and Buncombe, the cities of Durham, Greensboro, Asheville, Charlotte, and the towns of Carrboro, Chapel Hill, have established domestic partnership registries.
In 2008, the North Carolina General Assembly added a provision to the Patients’ Bill of Rights affording hospital visitation rights to same-sex couples though a designated visitor statute.
Some lower courts allowed second-parent adoptions until the North Carolina Supreme Court ruled 5–2 in 2010 in the case of Boseman v. Jarell that the state law did not permit adoption by a second unmarried person irrespective of the sex of those involved. The plaintiff in that case was Julia Boseman, first openly gay member of the state legislature. On June 13, 2012, 11 same-sex couples sued several state and local officials in federal court seeking second-parent adoption rights. In 2013 they amended their suit to challenge the constitutionality of the state’s denial of marriage rights to same-sex couples. On October 14, U.S. District Judge William Osteen ruled for the plaintiffs.
Further information: LGBT employment discrimination in the United States
North Carolina outlaws discrimination based on religion, color, national origin, age, sex or handicap, sexual orientation and gender identity in public employment, but discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity are not prohibited statewide in private employment, however it is against the law to sue in state courts for such discrimination. State law bans local municipalities from prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in areas other than public employment.
The counties of Buncombe, Mecklenburg, and Orange, the cities of Asheville and Charlotte and the towns of Boone, Carrboro, Chapel Hill, Greensboro, and Raleigh prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in local public employment. The counties of Durham and Guilford along with the cities of Bessemer City, Durham, High Point, and Winston-Salem prohibits local public discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation only.
The University of North Carolina system, which comprises North Carolina’s 16 public universities, established a policy of non-discrimination with regard to sexual orientation and gender identity in employment and for students, which is now in partially in conflict with the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act.
Appalachian State University, Fayetteville State University, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, North Carolina Central University, North Carolina State University, University of North Carolina at Asheville, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and University of North Carolina at Pembroke have established non-discrimination policies that cover sexual orientation and gender identity in employment and admissions. East Carolina University, University of North Carolina at Wilmington, University of North Carolina School of the Arts, Western Carolina University, and Winston-Salem State University have established non-discrimination policies that cover sexual orientation in employment and admissions. Elizabeth City State University is the only public university in North Carolina that has not established a non-discrimination policy in respect to either sexual orientation or gender identity for employees or students.
The North Carolina Housing Finance Agency has a policy which provides “all employees and applicants for employment with equal employment opportunities, without regard to race, color, religion, creed, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, age, disability, political affiliation, or any other protected status”.[needs update]
On June 26, 2014, the North Carolina House of Representatives passed by a 115–0 vote for an amendment to bill that prohibits discrimination in charter schools on the basis of any “category protected under the United States Constitution or under federal law applicable to the states.” The amendment was later removed in the North Carolina State Senate and not included in the final bill signed into law.
On April 12, 2016, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory signed an Executive Order outlawing LGBT discrimination in any public employment within the state, though it did not impact the controversial HB2 legislation. In October 2017, Governor Roy Cooper extended this discrimination protection to businesses that contract with the state.
Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act
Main article: Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act
Passed in March 2016, the law also known as “HB2” prevents local governments from enacting policies contrary to state law in regards to hiring and use of bathroom facilities, and requires all people to use the bathroom of the gender listed on the person’s birth certificate. The portion of the law regarding bathroom use based on gender at birth was repealed by the state legislature on March 30, 2017, and signed into law by North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper the very same day.
House Bill 142
Main article: House Bill 142 (Session 2017 of the North Carolina General Assembly)
Hate crime law
North Carolina’s hate crime statute does not cover sexual orientation or gender identity.
See also: List of U.S. jurisdictions banning conversion therapy
On August 3, 2019, the North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper signed an executive order within his office – explicitly banning any state funding of conversion therapy on minors. This is the first time a southern US state has done this.
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