A few weeks ago I learned that I was going to receive an award from the Equality NC Foundation — its Bob Page Equality Champion Award (Triangle Region) at its annual gala. It was held last night (Saturday) in Greensboro, after the day-long educational conference of activists and supporters.
In my blog post on the award itself, I noted that this year that all of the Champion Award recipients were women — North Carolina had a bumper crop of girl power! Honorees included Reverend Jasmine Beach-Ferrara (Western Region), Chris McLeod (Charlotte Region), Reverend Julie Peeples (Triad Region), and Sherre Toler (Eastern Region) — and they all contributed to the journey to equality here in very different and equally interesting and committed ways (see my earlier post on their work).
Here is the wonderful video shot and edited by Frank Eaton:
My work on the blog and social media during the Amendment One campaign earned the nod:
She kept the spotlight on the shenanigans of the other side, and also worked in concert with other noted LGBT bloggers across the country to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars through a “moneybomb” for our side. In so doing, she not only elevated the conversation, but also helped build our supporter base, not to mention a new and more sophisticated LGBT rights movement in North Carolina.
Yes, recognition for the whole Cheetos-stained, p.j.-wearing armchair activist. Well, that tired stereotype has been blasted away for some time now by many of my digital colleagues. You really can’t do it all online; I did quite a bit of work offline as well, speaking to diverse communities, bringing the stories of the unheralded voices in the battle to turn back discrimination at the ballot box to people outside of North Carolina.
My hope is that others will pick up the digital torch and run with it — there were so many young people at this conference today, full of enthusiasm and energy, not beaten down by the loss in May here.
We saw the President finally come out in favor of marriage equality (what a bittersweet moment that was — he did it right after Amendment One passed, see “Robbed of the ability to celebrate the President’s statement on marriage equality“), and on election day we saw all marriage equality-related ballot initiatives go our way — and the President was re-elected. And his position on marriage equality did not matter in the least, something a good number of us in the LGBT blogosphere said for a good long time wouldn’t hurt him when the main concern on most Americans’ minds was getting a j-o-b.
But here in North Carolina we must persevere while others celebrate. With a Republican governor-elect, and a General Assembly with GOP supermajorities, there’s a lot of work ahead, but the trendlines are all in our favor, and those on the right should live in fear of the coalitions that have been built here.
One of the highlights of the 2012 Equality NC Foundation Gala was listening to the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II of the NC NAACP talk about that landmark coalition that was in actuality, forming well before Amendment One, but picked up steam and set the stage for him to approach the national body to approve support for marriage equality — which the NAACP did. Dr. Barber received ENCF’s Special Award for Extraordinary Leadership Saturday, and his keynote that evening was electrifying and inspiring. He reminded us about what we have accomplished here and the direct impact on other equality initiatives around the country.
Breaking the stereotypes…and doing it in the South
Did you know that the amendment was opposed in majority-black districts in our state — destroying the stereotypeand strategy perpetrated by the National Organization for Marriage that was to purportedly drive a wedge between the LGBT community and blacks and Latinos. It didn’t work. Barry Yeoman:
In each of North Carolina’s five largest cities, voters in majority-black precincts rejected the measure: Charlotte (52 percent), Raleigh (51 percent), Greensboro (54 percent), Winston-Salem (55 percent), and Durham (65 percent). Durham’s results were dramatic: Not a single majority-black precinct supported the amendment. Several crushed it by margins of 3-to-1 and even 4-to-1.
Once you leave North Carolina’s larger cities, along with a handful of college towns and coastal resorts, the electoral map changes dramatically. Much of the state is small-town and rural, and those areas formed the backbone of the amendment’s support. Many of the strongest pro-amendment counties share isolation and low education levels. What they don’t share is race.
It simply didn’t happen because Rev. Barber and other members of the faith community and communities of color drove home that this is a civil rights issue — that the same forces promoting Voter ID laws, “show us your papers” legislation, the womb-controlling war on women, destruction and resegregation of the public schools and other regressive ideas are the same teabaggers, bigots and wingers that backed Amendment One.
The next battle here…
While there may be dancing in the aisles about marriage equality, it’s not the issue here in North Carolina and never was. Circumstances placed that on the ballot, but there are issues we have to address here as we await the U.S. Supreme Court to push equality where the legislatures will not at the present time. For instance, there is no statewide anti-discrimination law on the books protecting LGBTs. It’s kind of hard to work on anything related to marriage when you are at risk for losing your job for having your partner’s photo on your desk.
Another issue is second-parent adoption. In North Carolina a person in a committed relationship with a partner who has a biological or legally adopted child cannot adopt that child. That applies to both (unmarried) heterosexual or gay couples. At a luncheon panel during the conference this topic was discussed at length by the ACLU of NC, which has filed a lawsuit on behalf of six couples fighting for second-parent adoption rights. The ACLU’s Jennifer Rudinger, Sarah Preston and Chris Brook outlined the issue.
In December 2010, the North Carolina Supreme Court banned second parent adoptions for same-sex couples.
The plaintiffs in the case are:
* Marcie and Chantelle Fisher-Borne, Durham
* Crystal Hendrix and Leigh Smith, Asheville
* Lee Knight Caffery and Dana Draa, Charlotte
* Shana Carignan and Megan Parker, Greensboro
* Leslie Zanaglio and Terri Beck, Morrisville
* Shawn Long and Craig Johnson, Wake Forest
“North Carolina’s law denies children the permanency and security of a loving home simply because their parents are lesbian or gay,” said Jennifer Rudinger, Executive Director of the ACLU of North Carolina. “This is fundamentally wrong. No parent should have to worry about what will happen to their children if something happens to their partner.”
One of the heartbreaking cases featured in the video shown at the panel was of the story of Shana Carignan and Megan Parker, who care for and love their son Jax, who has cerebral palsy:
This fight is winnable and in North Carolina the numbers are astonishingly positive. We learned that 80% of North Carolinians support second-parent adoption, and even among those who identify themselves as “very conservative,” over 60% support protecting the rights of a child to remain in a stable home with the only parents that they know and love. While this case winds its way through the courts, there will be a push, even with the composition of the General Assembly to move this forward.
As Matt Comer reports, this is a time to regroup and refocus on the changes that can be made — at the local level, where change occurs much more readily because you are working neighbor-to-neighbor to reach those goals.
With LGBT advances in the legislature practically dead-on-arrival, the statewide group’s local focus will take the organization to cities small and large. They want to work on local ordinances and policies prohibiting anti-LGBT employment discrimination, domestic partner benefits and other measures will be at the top of their agenda.
“We plan to look at between two and four cities a year and expand on the ground at the local level if the laws are already there or enact them where they are missing,” [Stuart Campbell, executive director of Equality North Carolina] said.
…The amendment loss “awakened a sleeping giant,” Campbell said. “We turned out over 800,000 people who stood with us. We’re not as alone as it sometimes feels.”
That power will come in handy when it is time to mobilize supporters again, Campbell said. ”We have to find a way to tap into that feeling of fairness and equality our friends and neighbors have and expand upon that.”
And so the work continues here, with many people who aren’t running away, not seeking refuge in Blue havens, but choosing to stay and fight for not only LGBT rights, but for human rights and social justice issues affecting all North Carolinians.