When jolly St. Nick wraps up his Naughty and Nice lists this year, he’ll be including some names familiar to the LGBT community. Unfortunately, a lump of coal is the only thing some of them will find in their stockings.
Operation Save America and Flip Benham
Surprise, right? Absolutely not. Operation Save America (OSA) and its fringe leader Flip Benham have made waves this year. From their national gathering in July to their regular protests at abortion and women’s health clinics throughout the year, Benham and his merry band of blind sheep have caused chaos, fear and stoked the fires of hatred and bigotry. Need proof? Look no further than Benham’s November conviction for stalking Charlotte-area abortion doctors. Benham had put up “Wanted” posters including the doctors’ names and addresses and protested several of them at their homes. After the conviction, which landed him 24 months of probation, Benham justified his actions, telling Charlotte’s WSOC-TV that the doctor he was targeting “kills babies. He does it for a living. He has no respect for life of children in the safety and neighborhoods of their mothers’ wombs.”
Benham says the conviction violates his First Amendment rights to speech and that he’ll appeal the ruling.
Dr. Michael Brown
Though less in-your-face than Benham and probably a bit more sincere (see this issue’s Editor’s Note), Dr. Michael Brown nonetheless rightly earned his place on this year’s Naughty list.
Regular comparisons of LGBT people to child rapists and pedophiles, adulterers, murderers and other outlandish claims was enough to do him in. What really sealed the deal was Brown’s March interview with Ugandan “da poo poo” pastor Martin Ssempa, a chief advocate of a strict legislative bill that would have prescribed harsh penal sentences — and, in some cases, capital punishment — for homosexuality. Despite having the opportunity, Brown failed to make a call for compassion or to condemn the bill. Brown’s reason? It isn’t our place to judge Ugandan law, culture and society. Following Brown’s line of argument, no one should be able to judge any crime against humanity; after all, such crimes are best seen in the “context” of “culture,” you know.
Christian Action League of North Carolina
Despite their best attempts, the Christian Action League of North Carolina continues to struggle financially. That’s phenomenal news for Tar Heel LGBT folk. The group is one of the loudest advocates for an anti-gay marriage amendment in the state and has pushed their propaganda against LGBT-inclusive anti-bullying legislation far and wide.
Rep. Larry Brown
Former Kernersville, N.C., mayor, state Rep. Larry Brown (R-Forsyth) made a splash when an email of his leaked out to the press. Addressing 60-some GOP colleagues, Brown called LGBT people “fruitloops” and blasted Democratic House Speaker Joe Hackney for his receipt of Equality North Carolina’s 2010 Legislative Leadership Award. Despite the slurs and offensiveness, advocates with Equality NC took it in stride. In fact, they were able to raise a small bit of money from Brown’s anti-gay statements. Seems as though bigots might not ever learn: North Carolinians are tired of the hate-filled rhetoric, and every time you spew it you embolden our movement for equality. Keep talkin’, friends.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Rodney Monroe sits squarely on Santa’s Nice list. He made history in the City of Charlotte this year when he agreed to attend an open forum at the Lesbian & Gay Community Center. His appearance and participation there marked the first time any sitting Charlotte police chief had met publicly with the LGBT community. Since that meeting, Monroe and his staff have continued to meet with LGBT community members and leaders and committed themselves to creating a more inclusive and receptive police force.
Speaker Joe Hackney
Opposing anti-gay Rep. Larry Brown is Democratic North Carolina House Speaker Joe Hackney. Quiet, reserved and not always keen on being in the public limelight, Hackney nonetheless gave a rousing speech on inclusion, progress and equality when he received his 2010 Legislative Leadership Award from Equality NC in November. What’s more, his leadership in the North Carolina House of Representatives has been stellar, providing a solid progressive base for future North Carolinians to grow on.
This year, John Stotler became chair of the Lesbian & Gay Community Center of Charlotte. In just the few short months he’s been at the helm, the community has seen a tidal wave of change emanating from the center’s location at the N.C. Music Factory. Stotler’s not afraid to get his feet wet, has proven he can positively and receptively communicate with members of the community and respond to community concerns when and where they arise. We’re looking forward to many more improvements and advancements at Charlotte’s LGBT center under Stolter’s refreshing leadership.
For all of this publication’s editorializing to the contrary (to be fair and more specific: this writer’s editorializing), Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx actually has done a bit to move the city forward. He has a progressive vision that includes LGBT citizens. Although we’ve yet to see any serious or concrete changes, Foxx nonetheless makes it onto this year’s Nice list. His outspokenness in pushing for Charlotte’s bid for the 2012 Democratic National Convention has been astounding. Such an event would surely bring attention (and money) to the Queen City. And, like all queens, Charlotte likes being at the center of attention!
Last but definitely not least is community advocate Roberta Dunn, honored recently by Equality NC for her work in Charlotte. Dunn was instrumental in bridging the gap between LGBT community members and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. Her conversations led to Chief Monroe’s forum at the Lesbian & Gay Community Center and to further talks on diversity and inclusion. Dunn has, by far, engaged in some of the best civic work on behalf of LGBT Charlotteans that we’ve seen in a very, very long time. : :