North Carolina’s statewide LGBT advocacy and education organization kicked off a statewide town-hall tour on the coast last night. The event in New Bern, N.C., featured a lesbian couple who made headlines last month after a local restaurant owner approached them with an anti-gay letter.

Equality North Carolina says more than 40 people attended their town hall event, meant to raise awareness and provide education on LGBT issues to the public.

The New Bern couple, Ariel and Shawnee McPhail, pictured right, addressed the town hall on their experience.

“We didn’t know that you all were here….this love and this support, people need to feel that…and we’re not going anywhere,” Shawnee McPhail told the New Bern crowd, according to a release from Equality North Carolina.

Using the McPhails’ experience as a launching point, representatives from Equality North Carolina presented ways to get involved, including tips on organizing in New Bern and beyond.

“The work of a true leader does not divide, it unites and builds communities,” said Chris Speer, the group’s director of organizing.

In order to help this community continue to heal, Equality North Carolina has also pledged to publish a list of business establishments in New Bern that have pledged to value equality for all North Carolinians, including LGBT patrons and employees.

The group’s next town hall will be held in Greenville, N.C., on Feb. 18.

Interesting tweets from last night:

[blackbirdpie url=”″]

[blackbirdpie url=”″]

[blackbirdpie url=”″]

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