Equality North Carolinas Ian Palmquist (l) and Linda Bush, Movement Advancement Project executive director. Photo Copyright 2009, Amy Sue Krohn Bennett.
Equality North Carolina's Ian Palmquist (l) and Linda Bush, Movement Advancement Project executive director. Photo Copyright 2009, Amy Sue Krohn Bennett.

Over the past 10 years, North Carolina’s statewide LGBT advocacy organization has grown steadily in political, financial and legislative support and success. Its growing base of community activists and committed donors, coupled with its passionate leadership team, has made Equality North Carolina (ENC) one of the most effective state-level advocacy organizations in the nation.

Much of the group’s growth can be rightly credited to the work of current executive director Ian Palmquist, who has earned himself and his organization respect and recognition from national, state and local organizations and advocates.

This year, Palmquist celebrated 10 years with the organization. He’s also Q-Notes’ 2009 Person of the Year.

Palmquist is an ever-diligent watchdog and leader, from his outspoken advocacy in the halls of the state legislature to his public role speaking on behalf of our community in news-media outlets across the state. There is, perhaps, no other person this year who had more influence over LGBT progress and visibility in North Carolina than Palmquist.

First hired in 1999, Palmquist was shortly thereafter named assistant director and later appointed co-director. In July 2006, he was named executive director.

This year, Palmquist led the organization — along with a wide coalition of other state groups — in its most important political triumph to date, building sufficient public and legislative support for an LGBT-inclusive anti-bullying act. The act, signed by Gov. Bev Perdue this summer, is the first time the terms “sexual orientation” and “gender-identity” will appear in state law.

For the sixth year in a row, ENC has also blocked anti-gay efforts to amend the state’s constitution to ban recognition of same-sex relationships. Because of the work of ENC and Palmquist’s leadership, North Carolina remains the only state in the entire Southeast without such a constitutional amendment.

Since 2003, Palmquist has been a board member of the Equality Federation, a national association of state LGBT advocacy groups. He chaired the group from 2004-2007. In November, he was again chosen to lead the organization and fill the unexpired term of Equality Ohio’s Lynne Bowman.

ENC’s work on passage of the School Violence Prevention Act was named this year’s “Most Amazing Achievement” by the Equality Federation. ENC was also honored for “Best Fundraising Effort.”

Palmquist, who lives in Raleigh with his partner Brad Oaks, is also a founding member of the board of NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina and a steering committee member of the North Carolina AIDS Action Network. A native of Raleigh, Palmquist began his activism on gay rights and civil liberties issues at Enloe High School. He attended the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and graduated in 1999 with a B.A. in English and Linguistics.

There is no doubt in our mind — North Carolina wouldn’t be the same without Palmquist and his talent, knowledge and leadership. When the history of North Carolina’s LGBT community is written down in decades to come, Palmquist will be among those remembered and honored.

Ian, thank you for your service.

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