LGBTQ community members and their allies, along with elected officials and community political action groups came together Saturday morning April 22 at the Carolina E-Sports Hub.
In attendance for The House is on Fire, an emergency town hall meeting to discuss concerns surrounding the growing dark cloud of anti-LGBTQ legislation aimed at our community from North Carolina’s Republican Party, were approximately 200 individuals representing the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer communities, as well as performers from the drag community.
Currently bills are making their way through the North Carolina congress that impact the entire LGBTQ spectrum: from so-called Don’t Say Gay bills that forbid the mention of anything related to same-sex attraction or LGBTQ culture and history in public schools and federally funded institutions; and legislation that would make drag performances illegal, to bans on trans individuals participating in sports from elementary schools through college.
Concerns are also emerging that the Constitution of the state of North Carolina, which still retains an out-dated same-sex marriage ban and an ancient felony sodomy law, could prove to be legally problematic for LGBTQ residents of the state.
Event facilitator Cameron Pruette spoke to the crowd, acknowledging the seriousness of what challenges we are likely to face in the near future. He then introduced guest elected officials to share their thoughts on what actions we might take and what the process should be to reclaim North Carolina.
Guest speakers included representative John Autry of North Carolina District 100; Representative Mary Belk of North Carolina District 88; Representative Terry Brown, Jr. of North Carolina District 92; and Senator Rachel Hunt of North Carolina District 42, who is also running for lieutenant governor.
Also among the speakers were LGBTQ community leaders Rhys Chambers, the Senior Regional Organizer for the Human Rights Campaign and Kelly Durden Posey, Director of Policy and Advocacy for the Carolinas LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce.
Other elected officials present include Mecklenburg County Commissioner-at-large Leigh Altman, who discussed the importance of precinct organizing; District 4 County Commissioner Mark Jerrell; School board member-at-large Jennifer de la Jara; and District 3 City Council Member Victoria Watlington.
Significant topics that came up during the talk were informative and useful for the LGBTQ community as we move forward into the next voting cycle.
Speakers encouraged attendees to bear in mind that Republican representative John Bradford from Mecklenburg County represents a particularly formidable enemy when it comes to LGBTQ rights and must be voted out at the end of his next term. Recent former Democrat turned stealth Republican Tricia Cotham came up in conversation as a reminder for all voters to research potential candidates as in-depth as possible.
Perhaps one of the most shocking revelations came about when it was confirmed that multiple companies and organizations that routinely made donations to LGBTQ groups and events also made donations to Republican candidates, among them John Bradford. Those companies include political action committees for the North Carolina Realtors Association, Duke Energy, Atrium Health, American Airlines, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of NC, the North Carolina Bankers Association and Bank of America.
Regarding actions the North Carolina population can take to restore the state’s political sanity and continuing advancements in LGBTQ equality, our hands are currently tied. As pointed out by the various speakers, change can come in 2024 during the next election. It’s of paramount importance for all progressives to organize at base levels in their rural districts, towns, cities and statewide.