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South Carolina county passes non-discrimination ordinance

Home to state capital, Richland County joins Cities of Columbia, Charleston in protecting LGBT citizens

COLUMBIA, S.C. — One of South Carolina’s largest counties unanimously passed a new, LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination ordinance on public accommodations and housing at their meeting on Tuesday, June 7.

Richland County, home to the state capital city of Columbia, joins with its county seat and the City of Charleston in offering non-discrimination protections to LGBT citizens and residents.

Sponsored by freshman Councilman Seth Rose, the ordinance protects individuals from discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, familial status, disability or sexual orientation. In the ordinance, “sexual orientation” is defined as “a person’s real or perceived heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality or gender identity or expression.” The ordinance also establishes a fine of $500 for offenders.

The June 7 ordinance passage follows another policy enacted by the Richland County Council in May, when the county amended personnel policies to include protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. That change also passed with a unanimous vote.

“Both these efforts to eliminate discrimination in Richland County represent a giant step forward in our policies,” Councilman Seth Rose, sponsor of both measures, said in a release. “I commend my colleagues for joining me in taking a stand against discrimination and proclaiming that regardless of shape or form, discrimination is not welcome in our County. These measures represent the fruition of a campaign commitment I made to the LGBT community to advocate for equality and fight discrimination. I am proud to say I have kept my word.”

South Carolina Equality, a statewide LGBT education, advocacy and lobbying organization, approached Rose to request he sponsor both measures in January. Their executive director, Christine Johnson, has commended the work of the council.

“The Richland County Council has lead by example and demonstrates the unique ability of elected officials to respond to community needs,” Johnson said in a statement. “Richland County has a significant LGBT presence, and on behalf of Richland County lesbian, gay, lesbian bisexual and transgender individuals and their families, SC Equality thanks the Council for embracing diversity not only in word, but in deed. We invite other local government officials to follow the exceptional leadership example of the Richland County Council.”

Richland County and the Cities of Columbia and Charleston are the only municipal governments in the Carolinas which offer LGBT-inclusive protections in housing and public accommodations. In North Carolina, such decisions are restricted by state statute, though 14 city and county governments have adopted ordinances banning anti-LGBT discrimination in government employment. The Carolinas’ largest city, Charlotte, does not offer similar LGBT-inclusive protections. : :

Posted by Matt Comer

Matt Comer is a staff writer for QNotes. He previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015.