Gwinnett County passes law protecting LGBTQ+ people from discrimination

There are new protections for members of the LGBTQ+ community in Gwinnett County. 

The Gwinnett County Commission passed a new ordinance barring discrimination for protected classes in the workplace and in businesses in the unincorporated parts of the county. 

Jeff Graham, the executive director of Georgia Equality, said the local law fills in gaps left by federal law. 

"While there are some federal protections from some court cases, there really are no explicit protections under federal law for the LGBTQ community," Graham said. "Georgia is one of only three states without any." 

Georgia Equality

Georgia Equality (FOX 5)

Athens-Clarke County, Atlanta, Brookhaven, and East Point are among 19 localities across the state that have passed similar ordinances, he said.  

A 2019 study from the National Institute of Health found more than half of people in the US who identify as LGBTQ+ have been subjected to not just discrimination but violence because of their sexuality or gender identity. 

"It’s critically important to the LGBTQ+ community because we know discrimination is at heightened levels," he said. 

Gwinnett County Commissioner Kirkland Carden helped pass the ordinance. 

"This is a proactive step to make sure that everybody feels like they’re welcome," Carden said, adding it only applies to unincorporated parts of the county. "For the people who have been victims of discrimination, they get that justice or vindication to know that there was a process that played out." 

Gwinnett County has passed new protections of the LGBTQ+ community.

Gwinnett County has passed new protections of the LGBTQ+ community.  (FOX 5)

Carden said a county official would review the complaint and determine if it should go before the county's Recorder's Court, which handles ordinance violations.  

The ordinance calls for a maximum fine of $1,000 – but it’s more about preventing discriminative practices in the workplace or places of businesses. 

It’s an alternative to taking it to the federal level, which can be expensive and take a long time. 

Carden said while the ordinance has passed, it won’t take effect until the new year to give businesses some time to learn about it.