For many, 2012 was a landmark year. It was full of activism and advocacy. Community organizations grew and changed. North Carolinians banded together in the face of an anti-LGBT amendment. The community grew closer and stronger. The amendment, by far, will rank atop any imaginable list of the major stories of the year, as it does here. But, there were certainly other noteworthy happenings over the past 12 months. Good or bad or otherwise, these moments are the hallmarks of this year’s LGBT history.
A battle lost
When Republicans took over the General Assembly in 2010, it became easily and readily apparent that North Carolina’s LGBT community was in for a ride. Swept into power upon a promise to tackle jobs and the economy, activists who had long worked with a friendly, Democratic legislature knew anti-LGBT social conservatives would eventually rear their heads. And, so they did in September 2011 when Republicans handily approved putting an anti-LGBT state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage on the ballot. With mere months before the initiative was put before voters, LGBT community members and organizations swung into high gear. Equality North Carolina and dozens of progressive, allied organizations formed the Coalition to Protect All N.C. Families. The coalition would lead an effort to unite the community and its allies, framing political and campaign messages on the amendment from the get-go. Anti-gay advocates often had a hard time keeping up, but the odds were stacked against us. On May 8, the amendment coasted to victory with 61 percent of voters approving the measure. In the time since, organization leaders and activists have looked back with awe on the amount of progress that was made. Despite the electoral loss, activists say the community is stronger, closer and more well-connected. The state constitution might very well ban marriage equality, but other equality initiatives have been successful, pushed forward in large measure by the awareness raised during amendment campaigning.
Mayfield on the dais
For more than year now, Charlotte’s first openly LGBT elected official has had the opportunity to lead among her colleagues on the city council dais. Elected in November 2011, District 3 Democrat LaWana Mayfield officially took office in December last year. Throughout the past year, Mayfield’s presence on city council has introduced LGBT people and issues to elected officials and other civic leaders, as well as the public. It has often been said that “having a seat at the table” changes politics for LGBT people. When we have such a seat, our lives are no longer numbers. Our humanity no longer a mere issue to be polled. Mayfield’s service over the past year has made history, offering for the first time in Charlotte the opportunity for LGBT people to have a consistently visible and active voice in local political affairs.
Charlotte moves forward
This year has been a watershed for LGBT progress in Charlotte, both politically and socially. One might debate whether such progress has come as the result of Mayfield’s presence on the council alone or whether her presence has combined with other forward movement from visionaries like Charlotte City Manager Curt Walton and local advocates. But, on this fact there can be no debate: Charlotte’s LGBT community made more legal, political and social progress in 2012 than almost any other year in its history.
In April, Walton said the city was considering extending health and other benefits to the same-sex partners and families of city employees (goqnotes-launch2.newspackstaging.com/14784/). Two months later, the matter was settled when Walton added those benefits to a budget the council approved in June (goqnotes-launch2.newspackstaging.com/15605/).
In December, Walton announced that transgender city workers would, like their gay and lesbian colleagues, receive official protection from employment discrimination (goqnotes-launch2.newspackstaging.com/19655/). Walton’s addition of gender expression to the city’s human resources policy crosses off a decades-long goal to see LGBT city employees protected from unfair and biased discrimination.
On the county level, elected officials in Mecklenburg County took their own stands for equality, voting to support a resolution against Amendment One on May 2, just days before the public voted on the measure (goqnotes-launch2.newspackstaging.com/14958/). Though the city council never took a similar collective position on the amendment, Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx, along with Mayfield and other city councilmembers, did take strong stands in opposition to the amendment. Foxx was present and affirming in other ways, too, including his brief appearance at a party welcoming out-of-town LGBT visitors and guests to the Democratic National Convention in September.
President Barak Obama delivers his nomination acceptance speech.
Photo Credit: David Lari
Democratic National Convention
The Queen City has always fancied itself like the Little Engine That Could. With enough grit and determination, a smalltown, southern banking center could grow to become a so-called world-class city with the reputation and backing to attract world-class events and activities. In September, the dream became a reality.
The spotlight cast upon Charlotte as a result of the 2012 Democratic National Convention raised the profile of the city in front of a national and international audience. The local LGBT community benefited in almost innumerable ways, from the months-long local presence of high-ranking, openly gay convention officials like CEO Steve Kerrigan to the new local organizing efforts of LGBT community members imbued with energy and passion like never before.
For the first time since the mid-1990s and Charlotte’s embarrassing “Angels in America” controversy, LGBT organizations, leaders and activists took an interest in Charlotte, sizing up its current state of LGBT equality. Community members in Charlotte and across the region seized the opportunity to create awareness and change. Policy changes were one result. The other was community growth. New organizing projects were successful, like the Unity LGBT welcome event. The seeds for new projects, like a local LGBT history initiative, were planted. The LGBT Community Center of Charlotte opened its doors to welcome media members. Current projects, like Pride Charlotte, held one week before the convention, grew dramatically in size and its ability to shape public awareness.
After the convention, Charlotte is a different place. It is more connected. More visible. Primed for greatness and change. It’s LGBT community is, too. : :