CHARLOTTE — On the heels of a whirlwind, one-day visit from the U.S. Department of Justice’s assistant attorney general for civil rights, the local LGBT community will once again host a federal government official.


The Charlotte Business Guild, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), Equality North Carolina and Mecklenburg LGBT Political Action Committee (MeckPAC), will present John Robinson, director of the Office of Civil Rights for the U.S. State Department, at the Guild’s May 17 meeting at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Uptown Charlotte.

Organizers say Robinson will deliver a presentation on diversity in the workforce and discuss topics such as diversity and leadership, the repeal of the anti-gay “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy of the U.S. military and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity in State Department policy.

Robinson will also review milestones reached on behalf of the LGBT population since 1950.

Renae Elam, president of the Guild, told qnotes that Robinson’s visit has created a sense of excitement among the local community. Elam was instrumental in snagging Robinson for the event, having met him at a Charlotte Chamber event last year.

“When I meet someone I think would be an interesting speaker for our group and relative to who we are, it doesn’t hurt to ask,” she said. “I’m surprised that he agreed to come. He’s such a high-ranking official at the State Department, but he seems like a really nice guy.”

Robinson last visited Charlotte in September 2010. In addition to the Chamber event, he keynoted an Inclusion Summit at J.C. Smith University.

Robinson’s upcoming speaking engagement at the Guild follows an April 14 visit to Charlotte by U.S. Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Thomas Perez. He and U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina Anne Tompkins visited Northwest School of the Arts where they spoke about bullying and anti-gay harassment. Later that day, Perez and Tompkins also met with various LGBT community leaders.

Charlotte’s stature as a growing urban center and as a city with a large and diverse LGBT community has gained notability in recent months. The announcement that Democrats will hold their 2012 nominating convention here has heightened media attention and local pride.

Elam admits the Democratic National Convention might have been part of Robinson’s decision to come back to Charlotte.

The Guild event will be held on May 17 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, 201 S. McDowell St. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. A $20 admission includes appetizer, dinner entrees, dessert, coffee and tea. A cash bar is available. The event includes free parking and is open to the public. Visit for more information. : :

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