CHARLOTTE — A rally to oppose a pending anti-LGBT state constitutional amendment on marriage, civil unions and domestic partnerships drew about 150 participants over the weekend in Uptown Charlotte. Organizers of the Oct. 15 event said it was the first of several more local activities to follow.
“It was very energizing,” organizer Ginger Brock said at a debriefing meeting on Monday evening. “To show a grand presence was inspriring for Charlotte. It was great place to start.”
Brock’s fellow rally organizer, Jeff Enochs, had hoped 500 people would show up for the event.
“It’s always tough to estimate who’s going to come out,” said Dave Webb, who served as a co-chair for this year’s Pride Charlotte and attended the event.
Webb suggested that smaller-scale activities during Uptown’s peak week-day business hours could have more impact.
“Having a presence with small rally during the week with everyone downtown would be appropriate,” he told the group. “Not even a march, but just with signs and creating visibility during the week. It’s about visibility and getting the word out there. It really gets out in front of people and makes them think about what the issue is.”
Despite the lower-than-expected turnout, Enochs is hopeful. He says the rally is just the beginning of a larger, more organized local strategy for raising awareness on the ballot initiative. He and other grassroots activists intend on creating a new group, dubbed Equality Charlotte, to push for voter registration, volunteer engagement and get out the vote campaigns as the May 8, 2012 amendment vote nears.
“This was our kick-off event,” Enochs told qnotes. “Our next rallies will start pinpointing specific neighborhoods and getting those people involved in their own rallies.”
The nascent Equality Charlotte, Enochs says, is indicative of growing momentum for progress in Charlotte.
“Once the momentum is there it is hard to stop,” he said. “When it starts, and especially throwing in something like this amendment, it won’t slow down. We’re making progress and we’re on the right track.”
Enochs and other organizers aren’t sure what role Equality Charlotte will play after the May amendment vote. Local groups like the Mecklenburg LGBT Political Action Committee do great work by helping elect LGBT-friendly candidates to local office, but volunteer organizers and citizens like Enochs see another niche that’s yet to be adequately filled. Historically, the Queen City has been without a large, grassroots activist or lobbying presence, though smaller, short-lived groups have formed off-and-on over the years.
Local organizing against the constitutional amendment comes as communities across the state scramble to motivate and mobilize concerned citizens. A similar rally is planned in Greensboro on Oct. 29.
A statewide campaign opposing the amendment has yet to form, though the Raleigh, N.C.-based Equality North Carolina continues to lead outreach and education initiatives.