Janice Covington Allison
Janice Covington Allison will be a VIP during President Barack Obama’s visit to Charlotte Tuesday. Allison was North Carolina’s first transgender delegate elected to go to the Democratic National Convention four years ago. Robert Lahser rlahser@charlotteobserver.com.

By Mark Price, The Charlotte Observer

It’s unclear how many hugs President Barack Obama has gotten from transgender women, but Charlotte’s Janice Covington Allison is hoping he gets his most memorable from her today, during his planned visit to the Charlotte Convention Center.

Allison, who made headlines for being escorted from a Charlotte government restroom last year, is to be among the VIPs on hand for Obama’s Tuesday stop in Charlotte, a trip staged on behalf of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Clinton’s national election committee approached her about attending the affair as a VIP, Allison says.

“They said they wanted me to be there, so I’m going to be there,” said Allison, who is an official with the North Carolina Democratic Party. “My goal is to get a hug from the President, and have him say word or two about what HB2 has done to the state.”

Related: Transgender Day of Visibility Rally in Charlotte protests HB2

Allison has been a leader in the North Carolina Democratic Party for more than a decade, including serving as a state delegate to the Democratic party’s last national convention. Her role in the upcoming Democratic National Convention will be as the first transgender woman elected to a standing committee, specifically the credentials committee that oversees delegate credentials.

Allison earned national attention last year after being escorted by a female police officer from a women’s restroom at the Charlotte Mecklenburg Government Center. That incident occurred the same night that the city’s so called “bathroom ordinance” failed on a first vote before the city council. Police have down played the restroom incident, saying the police officer’s conversation with Allison was misinterpreted.

A city policy extending discrimination protections to LGBT people was passed a year later, and it included allowing transgender people like Allison to use the restroom of their gender identity.

The North Carolina General Assembly pass House Bill 2 in response, to prevent the city’s law from going into effect. HB2 makes it clear LGBT people can’t sue for discrimination if they’re fired for being gay. It also prevents transgender people from using the restroom of their gender identity in government buildings, schools and state universities.

Related: Hopes shared by local trans individuals

Critics of the law are hoping President Obama or Hillary Clinton will address the HB2 controversy during speeches to Charlotte. The law has been blamed for losing North Carolina millions of dollars in convention and business investment dollars.

“I think inviting me to be a VIP is Hillary making a statement about HB2,” said Allison. “This kind of treatment is rare for the transgender people.”

(This article was originally published by The Charlotte Observer and is republished with permission.)

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