GREENSBORO — Celebrating a year of legislative success, more than 300 local activists and statewide advocates met Nov. 14 for Equality North Carolina’s (ENC) third annual Equality Conference and Gala.

On the campus of the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, advocates spent morning and afternoon hours networking and in educational workshops on local activism, LGBT issues on college campuses, the legislative process, same-sex parenting and the law, state hate crimes law, employment non-discrimination and more.

In 2009, Equality North Carolina saw a string of successes. Its biggest achievement came when the General Assembly passed the School Violence Prevention Act, requiring all local school systems to adopt stringent anti-bullying policies inclusive of sexual orientation and gender-identity.

In the conference’s opening plenary, Equality North Carolina Executive Director Ian Palmquist, pictured, delivered his annual “State of Equality” speech. He said the organization also saw success in expanded access to HIV/AIDS drug assistance, the passage of a more comprehensive sex education program statewide and was able to block an anti-LGBT constitutional marriage amendment for the sixth year in a row.

Despite an economic downturn, Palmquist said, the statewide group was able to grow. He attributed the group’s success to its organization building and increased grassroots activism and outreach.

Linda Bush, executive director of the Movement Advancement Project, also spoke during the morning session.

Brian Bond, deputy director of the White House Office of Public Liaison, was the organization’s keynote speaker.

He told attendees President Obama was committed to a repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the Defense of Marriage Act and said the president will stand by Winston-Salem, N.C.-native Kevin Jennings, director of the Department of Education’s Office of Safe and Drug-free Schools, who has come under attack by anti-LGBT groups for his past work onn LGBT issues.

That evening more than 200 attended ENC’s Gala, where Palmquist was honored for his 10 years of service to the organization. State Sen. Julia Boseman (D-New Hanover), pictured, received the organization’s 2009 Legislative Leadership Award. Also honored was Winston-Salem high schooler Kate Mabe for her work in helping to raise awareness of anti-LGBT bulling at her high school.

ENC raised more than $25,000 in contributions, excluding ticket sales and an additional $5,000 matching pledge from Winston-Salem’s Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation.

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.