[image-1] Mt. Pleasant passed two laws this month that protect the equal rights to housing and to the use of public accommodations for its LGBTQ residents.
[content-1] The new housing ordinance imposes a maximum fine of up to $500 per day for anyone who refuses to sell, purchase, rent, or lease to a person because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
The public accommodations ordinance makes it illegal to refuse service on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation at hotels, restaurants, hospitals, retail stores, movie theaters, and other establishments accessed by the general public.
[image-3]Both ordinances also prevent discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, age, sex, disability, familial status, or national origin. They are amendments to the General Regulations of the city’s Code of Ordinances.
Mt. Pleasant Town Council member Guang Ming Whitley introduced the two ordinances, which passed unanimously on Tues. Oct. 9.
“I am thankful to my fellow Town Council Members for recognizing the need for these ordinances and I am grateful they passed unanimously,” Whitley said in a statement. “We have now made it clear that we are a town that does not accept discrimination.”
Mt. Pleasant — with a population of 86,668 — is the state’s fourth-largest city behind Charleston, Columbia, and North Charleston.
In June, the city added sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected classes in the town’s personnel policy, which protects its 700 employees from employment bias and harassment. In passing the latest ordinances, the town joined Charleston and Columbia as the only other municipalities in the state with ordinances prohibiting discrimination against sexual orientation in housing, public accommodations, and local government employment.
“The passage of these LGBTQ-inclusive non-[image-2]discrimination ordinances not only protect those in the LGBTQ community who already live here, but it shows that Mount Pleasant is a place that all people can call home,” said Chase Glenn, executive director of the Alliance for Full Acceptance, who advocated for the policy changes.
In South Carolina, a patchwork of municipal laws make up for the dearth of state laws protecting LGBTQ residents, but the ordinances aren’t always equal in their protections.
“These local ordinances and policies protect approximately one percent of the South Carolina workforce from employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity,” according to the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, which is in the process of updating its report on South Carolina. “Local ordinances also protect approximately eight percent of adults from discrimination in housing and approximately 12 percent of adults from discrimination in public accommodations based on sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Here’s how three local governments in S.C. use that patchwork to protect LGBTQ residents differently:
In Richland County, an ordinance prohibits public accommodations discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, while a city personnel policy prohibits discrimination in local government employment. The county, however, has no ordinance preventing housing discrimination against LGBTQ residents.
A Folly Beach ordinance prohibits sexual orientation discrimination in the use of public accommodations, but it does not explicitly mention gender identity. The city’s public employment policy, however, protects both sexual orientation and gender identity, according to city administrator Spencer Wetmore.
A North Charleston ordinance prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of sexual orientation, which it also defines as “gender identity,” though both terms refer to different things. The city’s employment policy protects sexual orientation. The city does not have a public accommodations law.
Nationwide, the Fair Housing Act does not explicitly protect LGBTQ renters or buyers against discrimination, but discrimination may be covered by the law “if it is based on non-conformity with gender stereotypes,” according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.