City could update nondiscrimination policy

The city’s appointed Human Relations Commission will review Raleigh’s nondiscrimination policy to ensure that city employees of all sexual and gender orientations are protected.

The Raleigh City Council recommended the review after hearing from Brian Fitzsimmons, a former council candidate who had made the issue central to his campaign. Fitzsimmons lost his bid for the Northeast Raleigh District B seat to incumbent John Odom, but he’d promised to pursue the topic regardless of whether he won.

“This isn’t a religious issue, but it is a moral issue,” Fitzsimmons told the council. “I am not asking you to embrace a monumental shift in policy. I am simply asking you to embrace the idea of equal protection. Remind the employees and citizens of Raleigh that we are a city of opportunity, no matter who you are.”

Fitzsimmons pointed out that the policy hasn’t been updated in years, and the current language doesn’t address gender identity. It also needs the phrase “actual or perceived,” he said, to protect those who might be targeted based on an inaccurate perception of sexual orientation or status.

Fitzsimmons also wants the Human Relations Commission to take a larger role in overseeing the policy. “This could, and should, include broadening the scope in which that commission works,” he said.

The 11-member commission advises the city on human rights and human services issues; it issues annual awards and recommends grant funding for nonprofits. It no longer hears complaints from residents or mediates disputes on related issues.

Fitzsimmons challenged the council to approve a new policy by Jan. 5. And while Councilwoman Mary-Ann Baldwin called on the commission to “take action,” Odom – Fitzsimmons’ former opponent – said he’s not yet convinced the current policy must be changed.