Between jaw-dropping drag shows, sequined-feather themed fundraisers and events, late night circuit parties, and colorful festivals and parades across the whole spectrum of the rainbow – the LGBTQ+ Carolinas and our allies celebrated BIG this Pride season! Pride not only provides our community an opportunity to connect while being seen and heard, it also reminds us to honor our history and those who paved the way before us.
On a national level, Pride commemorates the Stonewall riots, which began in the early hours of June 28, 1969, when lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons rioted following a police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York City’s Greenwich Village. The Stonewall riots and further protests were the catalyst in the modern LGBTQ+ rights and liberation movements, eventually leading to the organized and public Pride marches and events nationwide.
Given the socially conservative histories of the Carolinas, our States experienced liberation on a slower timeline until the increase in momentum, organization and advocacy during the 1980’s AIDS crisis.
In June 1994, approximately 5,000 people attended the NC Pride march and rally in uptown Charlotte’s Marshal Park. A few years later Charlotte Pride returned to Marshal Park through 2005. In 2006, the festival, under the name of the LGBT Center of Charlotte, changed its name to Pride Charlotte and took place at Gateway Village and Cedar Street just a few blocks West of the Square. With steady growth over the next few years the event moved to South Tryon Street in 2011 after going to the NC Music Factory in 2010. In 2013, Pride Charlotte added the Parade, expanding the event by another day with about 50,000 people attending. In 2022, over 275,000 people attended Charlotte’s 2022 Pride Festival and surrounding events. The first-ever Rock Hill Pride Festival occurred in June 2021, and grew even bigger and bolder in June 2022.
From a legal perspective, this increasing popularity of celebrating Pride in the Carolinas has raised awareness for the fight for equal rights for LGBTQ+ people in both States, including same-sex marriage equality.
Many citizens of both Carolinas have questioned the future of the United States’ current same-sex marriage protections set forth in the Supreme Court’s opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges due to the concurrence issued by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. In June 2022, the Supreme Court ruling in that case overturned federal protections related to a woman’s right to an abortion as previously established in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. In his concurrence, Justice Thomas suggested that the Court should “reconsider” other past cases which granted rights based on the 14th Amendment’s substantive due process, including the right of same-sex marriages from Obergefell.
Besides Obergefell’s protections on a federal level, both North Carolina and South Carolina still have statutory and state constitutional laws which outlaw same-sex marriages.
The Respect for Marriage Act (RFMA) is a proposed bill currently being legislated in the United States Congress to require the United States Federal Government to recognize the validity of same-sex marriages. The House passed this version of the RFMA in a bipartisan vote on July 19, 2022. To complete the legislative process, the RFMA must also be passed by the Senate before both the Senate and the House of Representatives approve and the President can then decide to sign the RFMA into enacted and enforceable statutory law.
In doing so, the RFMA would direct the federal government to recognize same-sex couples’ lawful marriages – compelling states to provide full faith and credit to same-sex marriages performed in other states. Even if the Supreme Court overturns Obergefell and restores states’ authority to refuse marriage licenses to same-sex couples, the RFMA creates a backstop to ensure that every same-sex couple can retain protections if their own state nullifies their marriage. Under the RFMA, same-sex couples who ever face such discrimination in North Carolina or South Carolina could travel to another state, obtain a new license, and compel North Carolina or South Carolina to recognize their out-of-state marriage.
In addition to same-sex marriage equality, LGBTQ+ people are particularly at risk for unique legal challenges including other family law issues such as estate planning and administration, adoption, custody matters, employment discrimination, harassment and general violence, assisted reproductive technology, interstate and international parentage issues, transgender rights, name and gender marker changes, divorce, dissolution of relationships, property division, premarital agreements, separation and property settlement agreements, spousal support, child support, domestic violence, housing discrimination and healthcare access.
While the rainbow flags, festivals, parades, and events of Pride in the Carolinas continue to grow, so does the need to inform our LGBTQ+ community of these legal issues and the resources and options to protect ourselves and each other. As Pride is a celebration of our LGBTQ+ community’s survival and freedom, it is also a critical reminder of history and resources for a brighter future.
Zachary Porfiris is an experienced attorney, licensed in North Carolina and South Carolina, with Sodoma Law. As an active member of the Carolinas’ LGBTQ+ community himself, Zach has developed a niche in his practice for advocating for LGBTQ+ rights and equality. Zach is honored to serve LGBTQ+ clients in the areas of domestic/family law, child custody, child support, adoption, assisted reproductive technology, interstate and international parentage issues, transgender rights, name and gender marker changes, divorce, dissolution of relationships, property division, premarital agreements, postnuptial agreements, separation agreements, property settlement agreements, spousal support, domestic violence, estate planning, discrimination, harassment, and healthcare access. Zach is a dedicated member of the National LGBTQ+ Bar Association and National Center for Lesbian Rights’ Family Law Institute, the Pauli Murray LGBTQ+ Bar Association, the North Carolina Bar Association’s Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Committee, and the Carolinas LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce.
Updated October 3, 2022.