GREENSBORO, N.C. — Nearly five dozen LGBT Democrats from across the state gathered on Aug. 6 to form the LGBT Democrats of North Carolina. The new organization, which approved its bylaws and elected its first officers, will move to seek official auxiliary or caucus status from the North Carolina Democratic Party’s State Executive Committee.

Ryan Butler, 31, who works for state Sen. Don Vaughan (D-Guilford) in Greensboro, was elected as the group’s first president. He told qnotes the new group will give LGBT Democrats a chance to speak out and have a more active role in state party politics.

“I think many in our community feel like there is a potential for bad things to happen now because of the Republican Party’s taking control of the General Assembly,” he said. “I think that sparked a lot of people in the community to want to become more organized and mobilized. One place I think people saw a lack of organization or a lack of their own presence of LGBT people was in the state Democratic Party.”

Clayton Brooks, 23, a recent Harvard grad and Laurinburg, N.C. native, helped to organize the group, fresh off his work as campaign manager for openly gay state Rep. Marcus Brandon (D-Guilford). He said part of the inspiration for the group came directly from the party’s recently elected chair, David Parker.

“David suggested to a few folks that we needed to have one,” Brooks said. “There are national caucuses for LGBT Democrats and with the Democratic National Convention being in Charlotte next year, we felt it was important to make sure there was a state body representing North Carolina with those groups of LGBT Democrats from across the nation.”

Butler, who also serves on the party’s State Executive Committee, says the nascent LGBT Democrats of North Carolina will first focus on building membership and capacity.

“We need to focus right now on organizing the group, making the community aware of it and letting people know that a group for LGBT Democrats in North Carolina does exist,” Butler said.

Butler doesn’t foresee any problems in gaining official recognition from the state party.

“If you think about it, the entire country is supportive,” he said. “We’re at a tipping point now with national LGBT issues where, for the first time, it seems as though a majority of the entire country is on our side. I don’t think we’ll have much of a problem with anything because so many people are on our side.”

Those looking to get involved with the new organization are encouraged to search them out on Facebook, Butler said. The group, run by volunteers, is in the process of forming its initial online and social media presences.

The new LGBT Democrats of North Carolina follows in the footsteps of organizing by the late Joe Herzenberg and Lightning Brown. In the 1970s, they worked to form the state’s first caucus for LGBT Democrats. : :

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