Charles Graham, a Democratic Party member of the North Carolina General Assembly, currently represents the 47th district (western Robeson County) of the North Carolina House of Representatives.
Home to the town of Lumberton and a sizable Lumbee Tribal population, Graham is a member of the Lumbee Tribe and the only Native American currently serving in the General Assembly.
Earlier this year, Graham announced plans to run for North Carolina’s Ninth Congressional District against Republican incumbent Dan Bishop in 2022. Bishop, as Charlotte residents may recall, stood firmly against any efforts towards equality for the LGBTQ community when he served on the Mecklenburg County Commission. Back in ’06 he voted against allowing something as small as benefits for the same-sex partners of Mecklenburg County employees. In 2012, he was an advocate for North Carolina’s Amendment 1, which in 2012 made North Carolina the last eight in the country to ban gay marriage before a court overturned the law in the landmark Texas v. Lawrence case.
Bishop also supported House Bill Two, probably best known as the “bathroom bill.”
But, then, so did Charles Graham.
When interviewed by the Triangle area publication Indy Week in 2016 as to why he voted the way he did, his response was less than eloquent. His words according to Indy Week were (verbatim) as follows:
“Uhhhh… well… uhhhh… HB 2… uhhhh… I voted in favor of that, uh, HB 2, because I was concerned about the safety of our citizens in, um, restrooms. Um, I think it, um, certainly opened the door of opportunity for individuals to, uh, of, uh, of the ordinance, um… and, meaning that, you know, predators, and… folks that had, uh… uhmmm… other intentions would have been allowed to take advantage of that ordinance and certainly wanted to, take care of the, my number one concern was taking care of the safety of our children, ummm, and our citizens in, in, in, in… in public restrooms or private, uh, for that matter,” he mumbled.
“Uhhhm. Well… in this case, public. Um. I wanted to, uh… I felt that the constituents that I represent would want me to vote that way, and of course, uhhhh, I’m, uh, um… you know, a representative of the people of Robeson County, and, umm, I certainly had a lot of, um, folks who encouraged me to not support, support that ordinance, because it would, could have had statewide implications. Of course… uh… that’s why, um, I voted the way I did.”
Clearly, Graham was put on the spot and wasn’t able to articulate any justifiable reason for his vote. But, he has since realized his mistake and issued a far more concise explanation and apology on his campaign website. He doesn’t fall short of taking responsibility for his actions, and insists that he be held responsible for any future infractions on human rights.
“I believe human dignity is a human right. It’s a value I hold dear – but five years ago I failed to uphold my own value when I voted for HB2, and it was a mistake. It was a bill written and voted on within 24 hours, with the conversation surrounding protecting children and women, but I should have done more research to completely understand the impact of the bill. After the hurried vote, I spent the following days talking with colleagues and transgender-rights activists about the impacts of the bill – I became a full supporter of recalling the bill and worked across the aisle to fully repeal it. To the LGBTQ+ community, and specifically to the transgender community who suffered real pain from this bill and the rhetoric that surrounded it, I am sorry.”
“I have always tried to do what is right, but I am not perfect. I’m running for Congress to stand up against hatred and ignorance, and I expect to be held accountable when I fail to live up to my own principles.”
While some are finding it hard to forgive and forget, others, including individuals in the trans community, have expressed their gratitude for what they feel is a heartfelt apology.
For progressives, moderates, the LGBTQ community and allies in North Carolina’s Ninth Congressional District, supporting Bishop simply isn’t an option,
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