LGBTQ Law Center staff attorney Sarah Demarest, left, and lead attorney Kelly Durden will lead a "Know Your Rights" workshop in Charlotte on Thursday.
LGBTQ Law Center staff attorney Sarah Demarest, left, and lead attorney Kelly Durden will lead a “Know Your Rights” workshop in Charlotte on Thursday.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A community workshop scheduled for Thursday evening this week will present need-to-know information and strategies for LGBT community members who often face discrimination in the criminal justice system, employment, voting and harassment from members of the public and police alike.

The LGBTQ Law Center, a project of Charlotte’s Freedom Center for Social Justice, will host the “Know Your Rights” seminar at the LGBT Community Center of Charlotte, Thursday, March 20, 6:30 p.m. The event is free and light refreshments will be served.

Law Center staff attorney Sarah Demarest says the event is important for those who may not have a firm grasp of their rights as they exist under current law.

“We’re focused on how as LGBT people we can navigate life in North Carolina from day to day,” she says. “For a lot of people knowing their rights is just a matter of survival.”

In particular, LGB people of color and transgender individuals face increased risks of employment discrimination and police harassment. A recent case in Arizona has sparked attention nationwide, after transgender activist Monica Jones was arrested there for “manifesting prostitution.”

Demarest says the LGBTQ Law Center has seen similar cases in Charlotte, and qnotes has reported on similar local cases in the past.

“In Charlotte and throughout North Carolina, trans women of color are profiled as sex workers by police and often they can be arrested and jailed and housed with men,” Demarest says. “It’s very common. There’s a lot of stigma and criminalization that happens.”

Demarest and lead attorney Kelly Durden hope the presentation will equip community members with the knowledge and skills they need to stay out of potential conflicts or proactively address them when they arise. They’ll be joined be two community members who will share their experiences with discrimination and how knowing their rights would have prevented some of the problems they encountered.

The LGBTQ Law Center has hosted similar workshops across the state. Thursday’s event will be the first time it is presented in Charlotte.

Matt Comer

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