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Get to the C&G: Equality NC Foundation Officially Opens 2012 Conference & Gala Registration

By Jen Jones on 09/27/2012 @ 02:05 PM

Tags: equality nc foundation conference gala registration opens 2012

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We're thrilled to announce that registration for Equality NC Foundation's 6th Annual Equality Conference & Gala is now open, so please mark your calendar right now to join us for the C&G on Saturday, November 17, 2012, in Greensboro!

Click here for all the latest info about this year's event and get ready to register! Please also share this link with all your friends!

Last year's Equality Conference & Gala was a huge success, with over 400 people in attendance at EACH event. Your attendance this year is vitally important since it will send a loud message to our state's leaders that we will NEVER stop fighting for equality!

We're now looking for more event sponsors and gala table captains, so please email me at kay@equalitync.org if you or your organization would like to support North Carolina's LGBT event of the year!

Please click here to see our initial list of sponsors and find out more about sponsorship opportunities.

And click here to see our initial list of table captains and find out how to be a table captain yourself.

With the unfortunate passage of Amendment One, it's been a tough year for LGBT rights in North Carolina, but with your support, we're stronger now and we look forward to sharing what we've learned with you to make us all even stronger!

As always, we look forward to celebrating with you, because this year more than ever it's time to take a very public stand at our beloved C&G to showcase the extraordinary talent of LGBT and allied North Carolinians!

If you can attend one event this year, this is it!

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Equality NC Honors Equality Hero, The Vote Against Project

By Jen Jones on 09/20/2012 @ 01:12 PM

Tags: vote against, equalty hero

The Vote Against Project

The Vote Against Team

The Vote Against Project was nominated by Josh Wynne, a member of Equality NC's staff. While Equality NC and many sister groups were putting boots on the ground to fight the epic battle against Amendment One, it was folks like Curtis Brown and his team of photographic geniuses who helped document the nobility of the fight for our future, for the time when people will look back and ask how the great state of North Carolina could have passed such a regressive and mean-spirited ballot measure.



The Vote Against Project began in the living room of Raleigh photographer Curtis Brown shortly after the North Carolina General Assembly voted to place Amendment One on the ballot. Curtis had utilized his photography talents to raise awareness of other important causes and he wanted to do the same for this crucially important issue. He got a small group of friends together for a few brainstorming sessions and after tossing around dozens of ideas, they all agreed on a new concept called The Vote Against Project. The idea was to give North Carolinians an easy way to get involved, giving someone the tools to be an instant activist by simply posing for a photo and posting it online. After this concept was set, the team quickly began to grow as Curtis brought on other friends to help manage the rapidly growing idea. In the end, the team had only eleven members to make it all happen.

Some of you may have remembered seeing The Vote Against Project at Equality NC Foundation’s Equality Conference last year. The team wanted to raise initial awareness and gather feedback from this important first audience. The feedback they received was amazing! Everyone was excited about this unique, first-of-its-kind approach to voter engagement. The team left that day with the energy needed to take the next steps.

Beginning last January, the team officially launched its project statewide. Vote Against began hosting open photo shoots across the state made possible exclusively through donations. Over a period of four months the team racked up over 2,000 miles in their rental truck crisscrossing the state, visiting twelve cities for a total of nineteen photo shoots in all.

It didn’t end with just the quick photo. The team had volunteers registering new voters at each location and sent thousands of their iconic “Vote AGAINST” t-shirts out across the state. Then there was the online presence. After individuals received their photos, they were asked to post them online to share with others. As many of you probably saw, the simple act of posting a photo spread like wildfire across social media and likely made a real difference on Election Day.

Although the team members were all dedicated to the cause, they will tell you it was not always easy. They all had regular full-time jobs they were juggling with the project that quickly turned into second full-time jobs. Most nights included late night meetings via Google+, photo editing until the sun rose, using vacation time from work or in some cases taking days off without pay all to travel and make their idea a reality. Nevertheless, they will tell you it was all definitely worth it. They will tell you not a photo shoot went by that one of them didn’t tear up with pride and joy watching the folks who came to participate. If you ask them, they are full of stories that they can share that they will carry with them forever. The dedication of this amazing team allowed the passion of North Carolinians to shine in a way that would not have happened without this project.

So, we want to say thank you to this incredible team: Curtis Brown, Shannon Ritchie, Ryan Smith, Carl Broaddus, Lydia Kinton, Jeff Vizcaino, Dustin Slemp, Lauren Parker, Beth Gargan, Justin Frechette and Erin Dahlen. We also want to say thanks to the nearly 100 volunteers from across North Carolina who helped and all of the 5,000 of you who had your photo added to their “Portrait of North Carolina Unity.”

If you have not seen the incredible photos collected from across the state, all 3,000 are still online at www.voteagainst.org. Take a look at them to be inspired again!

Please click here if you'd like to make a donation to Equality NC. If you'd like to nominate your own Equality Hero, please email me at kay@equalitync.org. Describe your hero's selfless work against the amendment and be sure to include a photo!

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President of NC NAACP Writes "Open Letter to Clergy Who Are Trying to Confuse African American Voters on Wedge Issue of Marriage Equality"

By Jen Jones on 09/13/2012 @ 05:18 PM

Two weeks ago, it was politics as usual over at the hate-peddling National Organization for Marriage (NOM), one of the main funders for the campaign in support of Amendment One. Taking a page from its widely discredited playbook to pit people of color against LGBT people, NOM announced a new radio ad in North Carolina to turn African American voters away from President Obama for his support of marriage equality. You can listen to the ad here.

Rev. Dr. William Barber II

Rev. Dr. William Barber II

The star of the ad? None other than Patrick Wooden, one of the more prominent anti-LGBT figures who emerged during the pro-Amendment One campaign. Click here for a sampling of his inflammatory remarks about the LGBT community.

In response, Rev. Dr. William Barber II, President of NC NAACP--a trusted ally in the fight against Amendment One--again went into action, writing an "Open Letter to Clergy Who Are Trying to Confuse African American Voters on Wedge Issue of Marriage Equality."

We share the letter here to reflect on a lesson taught to us by Martin Luther King Jr., and reiterated time and time again by Rev. Dr. Barber during the Amendment One fight: "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice anywhere."


Open Letter to Clergy Who Are Trying to Confuse African American Voters on Wedge Issue of Marriage Equality

While the NAACP does not endorse candidates for President of our nation, we vigorously debate the issues that should shape national, state, and local elections. And we will challenge those who attempt to mislead our communities. Some clergy are wrongly criticizing and distorting the views of the President on the issue of marriage equality. They are trying to confuse African American voters. They have a right to their opinions but to mislead demands a response. These clergy - whatever their motives - are woefully mistaken if they believe such tactics will work.

President Obama is President of the United States. His position as leader of all Americans represents the noble commitment he made by oath to all Americans when he took office. The President, a former professor of law, respects the 1st Amendment, which preserves the right of and freedom from religion. He, like the Constitution, recognizes that every church has the constitutional right to decide, depending on their faith tradition, how to address the issue of marriage within their ecclesiology. The President also respects the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which he also swore to uphold. This makes it his solemn duty to guarantee the "equal protection rights" of every citizen. Civil marriage is a right protected by the constitution, despite how one feels about what constitutes a marriage personally or religiously. The President swore to uphold the rights of all the people, not just some of us. His position is the same as Republicans like Dick Cheney.

Those who insist on distorting and criticizing the President for doing his sworn duty insult the Civil Rights Movement. These clergy ally themselves with the same extreme right organizations and people who have spent millions of dollars trying to overturn the 1965 Voting Rights Act, what most historians say was the most important achievement of the Civil Rights Movement. These clergy have allied with the same regressive forces determined to re-segregate and rob our public schools of adequate funding. These forces spend millions trying to block workers' rights to organize; trying to force minorities, the poor, the elderly, and students to spend money to obtain voter photo ID's to exercise their right to vote; trying to cut the time and opportunities to vote; turning their heads away from the gross racial disparities in the criminal justice system.

These are the same extremists who are stirring the pot about "gay marriage" and other code-slogans they dream up, all designed to divide and conquer the 99% who obviously can out-vote them. Their strategy is based on an arrogant assumption that we, the sons and daughters of the Civil Rights Movement, are too dumb to see through their Trojan Horse trick. They believe they can use wedge issues to seduce us into being a part of their scheme to deny LGBT brothers and sisters of their fundamental rights. This will not happen on our watch!

Many are disturbed and feel compelled to respond to the single-issue moral litmus test being used to publicly denounce the President. Those who are manipulating this wedge issue are unwilling to acknowledge his attempts to lift the poor, lift the jobless, protect the weak from the powerful, provide health care to the sick, educational opportunity to the children, protect voting rights, and protect the rights of all Americans, all of which are efforts that clearly line up with the primary moral concerns of the Judea Christian faith. This intentional ignorance renders their critique suspect and void of credibility.

We believe the issues that should shape our evaluation of Presidential candidates and others is where do they stand and what are their plans regarding 1) economic sustainability, poverty and labor rights, 2) educational equality, 3) healthcare for all, 4) disparities in the criminal justice system and 5) defending and expanding voting rights and voter participation.

Theologically, from a bible-centric perspective, and from the Judeo Christian faith I practice, the issues that should dominate our public square are: How we treat the poor. How we treat the sick. How we treat children. How we treat women. How we treat those on the margins. How we treat the outcasts of society.

There are more than 300 scriptures on these issues, more than any other moral issue noted in the scripture. The second most noted sin in the bible is mistreatment of the" least of these", and the most noted is the sin of idolatry and self-worship, selfishness, and attempting to raise oneself to god status in judgment of others. Let us remember scriptures like these that set the normative posture for faithful service in the public arena:

Luke 4

God's Spirit is on me;

he has chosen me to preach the Message of good news to the poor,

Sent me to announce pardon to prisoners and

recovery of sight to the blind,

To set the burdened and battered free,

to announce, "This is God's year to act!"

Or Isaiah 58

'Why do we fast and you don't look our way?

Why do we humble ourselves and you don't even notice?'

'Well, here's why:

The bottom line on your 'fast days' is profit.

You drive your employees much too hard.

You fast, but at the same time you bicker and fight

You fast, but you swing a mean fist.

The kind of fasting you do won't get your prayers off the ground.

Do you think this is the kind of fast day I'm after:

a day to show off humility?

To put on a pious long face and parade around solemnly in black?

Do you call that fasting, a fast day that I, God, would like?'

'This is the kind of fast day I'm after: to break the chains of injustice,

Get rid of exploitation in the workplace,

free the oppressed,

to cancel debts.'

When you look at voting records and public policy positions carefully, the same forces fighting us on voting rights, educational equality, economic justice, addressing racial disparities in the criminal justice system, are the same forces sponsoring and paying for the current attacks on the LGBT community and the President.

No matter our color. No matter our faith tradition. Those who stand for love and justice are not about to fall for their trick. No matter how you feel personally about same sex marriage, no one, especially those of us whose forebears were denied constitutional protections and counted as 3/5ths of extra votes for their slave-masters, who were listed as mere chattel property in the old Constitution -- none of us -- should ever want to deny any other person constitutional protections.

What is most concerning about these clergy who try to suggest that this one wedge issue is the standard for measuring the moral fiber of our President, or anyone else for that matter, is that they seem to dismiss the essential call of the Judea Christian faith -- to love everybody. We are commanded by our faith and God to care for the stranger, especially those on the margins as Jesus did.

Is it an act of love for these clergy to unite themselves with groups like the Family Research Council, the National Organization on Marriage, and other elements who have been classified as Hate Groups by national organizations who track the extreme right? Is it an act of caring for strangers, when these clergy embrace the right-wing philosophy of othering people? Of demonizing fellow human beings whom God clearly and dearly loves? Is it an act of Christian love to claim allegiance to scriptural standards that say so little about what God says so much and so much about what God says so little? Have these dismissed the "weightier matters of the law"-- issues like poverty, caring for children, protecting women, the vulnerable, the least of these, and healing the sick? Do they fail to realize that it is even possible to be religiously heterocentric, without being constitutionally and socially homophobic? I pray that we will stop this denunciation of the President and other public servants and judge Him and them by the totality of their service and not through schemes designed by those outside our community to divide us for their own sinister and cynical motives. Yours in the Spirit of Truth and Justice,

Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II
President North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP

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Equality NC Co-Hosts LGBT Luncheon Featuring First Lady Michelle Obama

By Jen Jones on 09/07/2012 @ 10:00 AM

Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama from the LGBT Delegates Luncheon, September 5, 2012, told the packed crowed, "we must assure that all people are treated fairly, no matter who they are...or who they love."

Following her Tuesday night speech from the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, First Lady Michelle Obama spent Wednesday morning at a luncheon for LGBT delegates co-hosted by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the Victory Fund, National Stonewall Democrats, and Equality North Carolina to honor out LGBT elected officials.

Among the audience of LGBT delegates from across the country were notables such as U.S. Representatives Tammy Baldwin (WI) and Barney Frank (MA), HRC President Chad Griffin, Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, and Los Angeles Mayor and chairman of the Democratic National Convention, Antonio Villaraigos.

Villaraigos kicked off the program by emphasizing the importance of LGBT rights to his political party, including a reaffirmation of the Party’s marriage equality platform, followed by HRC President Chad Griffin who introduced the First Lady.

Amid echoing the sentiments of her speech from the night before, Mrs. Obama praised Rep. Tammy Baldwin, the openly-lesbian U.S. Senatorial Candidate from Wisconsin. “I also want to recognize a Congresswoman who has been a great leader in the House of Representatives, and who I know will make an outstanding senator for the state of Wisconsin -- Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin…That's my girl,” said Mrs. Obama.

In addition to shout outs to pro-equality candidates, the First Lady’s speech largely focused on the importance of grassroots activism and direct action in Election 2012.

“[N]o one here can sit back and say, "I can't possibly have an impact in this election," because that is absolutely not true. Everyone here can really, truly make a difference,” said Mrs. Obama. “So starting the minute that you get up out of these chairs…I want you all to get out there and think about who your 36 votes are going to be. Get out there. Find out who are your five votes. Then when you get that 36 or you get that five, then get five more, and then get five more, and again and again, and don't stop until the polls close on November the 6th.”

MAKE A DIFFERENCE in electing pro-equality candidates in North Carolina. Support the Equality NC Action Fund PAYBACK CHALLENGE today.

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UNITY: LGBT Delegates Event at Democratic National Convention

By Jen Jones on 09/03/2012 @ 05:05 PM

Equality NC board member Ken Wittenauer (l.) and Neil Giuliano, first openly gay mayor of a major city, from #DNC2012's #lgbtDNC UNITY event.

Equality NC board member Ken Wittenauer (l.) and Neil Giuliano, first openly gay mayor of a major city, from #DNC2012's #lgbtDNC UNITY event.

On the eve of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, the Unity Through Community welcome event for LGBT delegates drew nearly 1,000 people for a night of entertainment and activism.

Equality NC was on-hand for a special showcase highlighting LGBT activism in the state and beyond, joining other local notables such as openly gay leaders such as Charlotte City Councilmember LaWana Mayfield, Chapel Hill, N.C., Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt, and North Carolina state Rep. Marcus Brandon.

CLICK HERE for more images from Equality NC's coverage of #DNC2012.

And don't miss our LIVE coverage of the entire #DNC2012 on Twitter, including #LGBT events, news and pics!

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Occupy Wall Street Rally Highlights LGBT Issues

By Jen Jones on 09/03/2012 @ 04:00 PM

On the eve of the Democratic National Convention, the Coalition to March on Wall Street South rallied thousands to demonstrate against, among other issues, LGBT inequality. Activists on-hand held signs decrying the passage of Amendment One and calling for equity in the areas of education and employment.

"In 30 states across this nation...I can be fired for simply being myself," said Wayne Borders of Occupy Columbia from the Occupy stage. "That is something that I feel, that is completely antithetical to the democracy we claim to have, it is completely antithetical to the values and ideals we are supposed to stand for as an American people. So that is one of the things I will be marching down these streets on, and if you will stand behind me, I will definitely stand with you."

LGBT protestors from Occupy Wall Street rally in Charlotte.

LGBT protestors from Occupy Wall Street rally in Charlotte.

Borders and other LGBT activists joined hundreds of other protestors--ranging from the unemployed to those seeking immigration rights--for a historic pre-convention march spanning two blocks that ultimately descended upon Charlotte's downtown financial hub.

CLICK HERE for more pictures from Equality NC's coverage of #DNC2012.

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No More Mr. Nice Gay

By Jen Jones on 08/30/2012 @ 02:00 PM

Should we keep turning the other cheek when it comes to groups that try to divide us?

Or to politicians who threw us under the bus last year on both sides of the aisle?

Can we even get "payback" after such a stinging loss on Amendment One?

Meanwhile, it's politics as usual over at the hate-peddling National Organization for Marriage, one of the main funders for the campaign in support of Amendment One. Taking a page from its widely discredited playbook to pit people of color against LGBT people, NOM just announced a new radio ad in North Carolina to turn African American voters away from President Obama for his support of marriage equality.

<<<Listen to the ad HERE.

The star of the ad? None other than Patrick Wooden, one of the more prominent anti-LGBT leaders of the pro-amendment campaign. Click here for a sampling of the disgusting lies he's told about LGBT people.

Wooden implies that Amendment One passed because of strong support from the African American community, but nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, thanks to the extraordinary leadership of NAACP North Carolina, Southerners on New Ground, and other sister groups, African Americans voted against it just as strongly as other groups in opposition.

We're proud the African American community stood with us in North Carolina, and we're just not gonna let hate peddlers say otherwise.

So NOM is spending $34,000 on a sleazy radio ad to pit African American North Carolinians against LGBT North Carolinians and our first African American President, while we're trying to raise $100,000 to support strong pro-equality candidates in North Carolina and maybe knock out one or two of our more powerful enemies.

Won't you think about these two amounts and what they both mean for our future, then please make your best gift right now to help us meet our PAYBACK CHALLENGE? All gifts in any amount up to $4,000 will be matched by 50% through midnight on September 20 and help us change the makeup of the North Carolina General Assembly however long it takes.

We'll be announcing our endorsements within the next few weeks to help drive a pro-equality vote in November along with some of our very smart sister groups. In the meantime, if you haven't seen it yet, check out and share our powerful new video from Frank Eaton!

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Copy of You Taught Us a Lesson (Or Five)

By Jen Jones on 08/23/2012 @ 04:00 PM

In case you missed it, in 2012, Equality NC supporters joined thousands of fair-minded North Carolinians for a historic march through downtown Raleigh to protest regressive legislation, including Amendment One, North Carolina's constitutional ban on the freedom to marry.

Better known as "HKonJ," last year's Historic Thousands on Jones Street People's Assembly Coalition, sponsored by the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, marked our first look at the NAACP's strong commitment to defeat Amendment One, and a new coalition of organizations and community leaders from all across the state that would fight against this discriminatory constitutional rewrite and for North Carolina's growing LGBT community.

Join us this Saturday as we once again stand with our friends and allies, the NAACP and the broad coalition that makes up HKonJ -- the state's biggest social justice event -- as well as honor the work of the NAACP, show the resilience of the LGBT and allied community, and recommit to our fight for Equality for all North Carolinians.

Learn more and RSVP today on Facebook at:

http://www.facebook.com/events/494191550624224/

Don't miss your chance to march with your friends at Equality NC. Details include:

Meeting Time: 9:30am (Look for the ENC banner and table. Sign in, and pick up your rainbow armband.)

Meeting Location: 105 E South Street, Raleigh, NC 27601 (McDonald’s parking lot across from Shaw University)

Closest Event Parking: Alexander Square Parking Garage, 120 S Wilmington St, Raleigh, NC

We will have sign-making materials on-hand or feel free to bring your own handmade signs for the march.

In the words of the NC NAACP's Rev. William Barber, "forward together - not one step back."

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You Taught Us a Lesson (Or Five)

By Jen Jones on 08/23/2012 @ 04:00 PM

Over the past few months you've taught us some valuable lessons.

After a 17-city tour of the state on our Equality NC "What's Next?" Town Hall Tour, together we produced the crucial conversations necessary to keep our state's great Amendment One grassroots activism going into crucial races of the upcoming November 2012 general election and the insights to keep Equality NC working hard for you.

Lesson One – What We Do Together Changes Hearts & Minds
With more than a hundred thousand supporters now from all 100 counties in North Carolina and most states in the union, we have never been better able to mobilize at a moment's notice to address our state and or region’s most pressing needs and opportunities, including leading crucial conversations and community actions that change hearts and minds. And Equality NC works -- together we've engaged hundreds of thousands of fair-minded folks for pro-LGBT causes like defeating Amendment One and voting for pro-Equality legislation impacting parental and employee rights, supported community involvement and civic engagement opportunities, and helped pass decades-worth of landmark pro-equality legislation. We're growing faster than ever, and the more folks that get involved and invested, the more impact we have.

Help make an impact HERE.

Lesson Two – And We Are in This Together
Equality NC is a massive network of citizens like you, but our organization is small–just four full-time staffers, two part-time with occasional operational and technology support. Hopefully during our town hall tour you met with me or Stuart Campbell, our dedicated executive director who led most of our local meetings, caught up with Chris Speer, our new director or organizing, kept in touch with Kay Flaminio, our dynamic director of development—all feeling safe in the knowledge that our administrative coordinator Shawn Long was running the show back in Raleigh. Our small size means not only during our town halls you were able to meet and greet with most of the people fighting for you full time, but also that we have no time for red tape, layers of bureaucracy, or being focused on anything but getting better results for you, our fair-minded friends. In short, we depend on each other and we’re in this together.

Support our team HERE..

Lesson Three – Now More Than Ever, Our Advocacy Needs to Be Political
Amendment One’s very personal fight taught us a valuable political lesson: there are harsh consequences for failing to vote. And our town hall meetings made clear that you’ve never been more mobilized to get even more involved in Election 2012’s crucial general election.

So, taking a page from the opposition’s messaging playbook:

it’s not personal, it’s not payback, it’s political.

And trust us, we’ve never been more political.

Support our political action HERE.

Lesson 4 – We Will Go Where The Greatest Needs Are
Some organizations focus on a single issue, in a single place, over a long period of time. And while important to do, it can mean that when desperate needs or amazing opportunities for our communities arise, they get ignored. Since the Amendment One campaign, Equality NC’s organizing efforts are taking a more multidisciplinary approach to target the most urgent needs and opportunities fostered through our vast statewide coalitions. We’re working harder than ever with top quality community activists and partner organizations in the areas most supportive of pro-equality efforts, aspiring to add real value to our concerted work.

Help build our alliances HERE.

Lesson Five – There’s No One Like You
Our town halls showed that the Amendment One fight galvanized supporters like you. Equality NC—the only statewide LGBT group lobbying for LGBT North Carolinians in the General Assembly--is ready to harness that energy and make a move towards a pro-equality majority in our state legislature, fights for pro-equality legislation and policies, and to build a state of equality in North Carolina.

Make a secure donation to Equality NC Action Fund TODAY.

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Wake Forest University Law School Provides Legal Resources for Same-Sex Couples

By Jen Jones on 08/21/2012 @ 01:12 PM

Tags: wake forest, wake forest law, resources

Winston-Salem, N.C. - Wake Forest Law School's Elder Law Clinic recently updated resources for same-sex and unmarried couples seeking legal advice on a variety of issues. Resources include books, treatises, brochures and web articles concerning caregiving, cohabitation, and estate planning.

Wake Forest Law School

CLICK HERE to view the latest resources.

Resource links include:

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Equality NC Honors Equality Hero, Hendersonville First Congregational Church

By Jen Jones on 07/17/2012 @ 01:12 PM

Hendersonville, N.C. - Equality NC asked you to nominate "Equality Heroes"—unsung North Carolinians who worked tirelessly to defeat Amendment One—and you responded with dozens of local leaders who did their best to defeat the discriminatory rewrite. Equality NC is proud to recognize Hendersonville First Congregational Church, nominated by Clay Eddleman.

Hendersonville First Congregational Church was nominated by Clay Eddleman. We thank all the citizens of Hendersonville and Laurel Park who voted against Amendment One, and we thank each and every member of Hendersonville First Congregational Church!

From Clay Eddleman:

I would like to nominate Hendersonville First Congregational Church (United Church of Christ) as a local Equality Hero for being the ONLY church of the over one hundred churches or houses of worship in tiny, conservative Henderson County (population 100,000 in western North Carolina) to come out publicly AGAINST Amendment One. Under the leadership of The Reverend Doctor Richard Weidler and Moderator Ed Argue through 2011 and Moderator Mark Fagerlin starting in 2012, First Congregational Church took a leadership role in opposing the amendment.

FCC is a member of the Southern Conference of the United Church of Christ. Like many churches, its congregation is significantly older, but one that takes seriously its motto "Our Faith Is Over 2000 Years Old; Our Thinking Is Not." Its Open and Affirming Statement reads as follows:

As Christians and members of First Congregational United Church of Christ, we are a diverse group of people. We are persons of various ages, races, gender identities, accomplishments and goals, abilities, sexual orientations, theological and political beliefs, socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds. In our diversity we find strength and a way to understand the inclusiveness of God. We recognize each individual as a child of God. We welcome all people to join in our common mission through participation and leadership in this communion of faith.

Shortly after the passage of Senate Bill 514 and using some initial resistance by some congregants as an opportunity to learn, First Congregational formed its first social justice group to coordinate internal and external efforts against the amendment. Additionally, a small, community-based, grass-roots group of LGBT supporters opposing the amendment sought to use the church building as a meeting place, given that there were few other places in the county which would allow such a meeting. Again, using some initial resistance by some congregants, who viewed the amendment as a political issue not appropriate for church involvement, as an opportunity to learn how marriage equality is indeed a social justice issue, FCC agreed for the group, several members of which attend FCC, to meet at the church.

Starting in the fall, First Congregational used its Sunday morning forums, which are announced in the local newspaper and are open to the entire community, to make presentations, including "Implications of the Marriage Amendment," "The History of Marriage," "The Theology of Marriage," and "The Marriage Amendment and the Social Justice Ministry of Jesus." Unlike many, if not most, of the ministers in Henderson County who were actively encouraging their members to vote FOR the amendment while condemning homosexuality in general, Rev. Weidler spoke from the pulpit nearly weekly in some way about the social justice ministry of the New Testament and about opposing Amendment One.

On April 21, FCC sponsored a community/panel discussion with five experts in their fields: a theologian from Davidson College, a social worker from the local Council on Aging, a businessman from Raleigh, an attorney from Asheville, and a retired psychiatrist from Emory University, all of whom opposed the amendment. One attendee was the president of a local Tea Party group, who commented that "I cannot believe ANY church would sponsor a panel like this." Following two congregational open discussions, the congregation overwhelmingly voted to oppose Amendment One as a congregation AND to voice that opposition by taking out three one-half page ads shortly before the primary in the local Times-News, again being the ONLY church of the over one hundred churches or houses of worship in Henderson County to oppose Amendment One publicly. Following their vote, the church put up numerous signs opposing the amendment along the two roads forming the intersection where the church sits and kept them there through the primary.

It should be noted that although the name is Hendersonville FCC, the church is actually in the small town of Laurel Park with a population of approximately 2,000. The town has only two traffic lights and one blinking light at the four-way stop where First Congregational sits across from the town hall. Partly due to the outspokenness of the church, the ads in the paper, and the signs at a major intersection in the town, the Laurel Park precinct was the ONLY precinct in Henderson County actually to vote AGAINST Amendment One: 48.73% FOR and 51.27% AGAINST, whereas Henderson County at large voted 66.27% FOR and 33.73% AGAINST compared with the state's 61% FOR and 39% AGAINST.

Locally, First Congregational Church, which has an active Sunday attendance of only 110, has both been congratulated on its bravery for speaking out in this religiously and politically conservative county AND has been condemned publicly and privately for opposing Amendment One and for doing so publicly.

We're so proud to continue profiling local heroes for equality who fought the good fight against Amendment One.

Please click here if you'd like to make a donation to Equality NC. If you'd like to nominate your own Equality Hero, please email me at kay@equalitync.org. Describe your hero's selfless work against the amendment and be sure to include a photo!

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Equality NC Honors Equality Hero, Carteret Coalition Against Constitutional Amendment

By Jen Jones on 07/17/2012 @ 01:12 PM

Morehead City, N.C. - Equality NC asked you to nominate "Equality Heroes"—unsung North Carolinians who worked tirelessly to defeat Amendment One—and you responded with dozens of local leaders who did their best to defeat the discriminatory rewrite. Equality NC is proud to recognize the Carteret Coalition Against Constitutional Amendment, nominated by Marshall Bennett. From the mountains to the coast and back again, many wonderful people found their voices in rising up against Amendment One, and will no longer be silent.

From Marshall Bennett:

The Carteret Coalition Against Constitutional Amendment is a grassroots organization in Carteret County that was formed to bring people together to organize against Amendment One during the primaries. Carteret County saw a lot of support for the amendment from churches and from citizens, as it is a highly conservative county in North Carolina. The Carteret Coalition was an unlikely story in Carteret County, but as the primaries grew closer, the organization began to grow with many citizens from various walks of life joining together to get the word out about the harms of Amendment One.

By election night, the Carteret Coalition had gained over 300 people. These folks spoke to their neighbors, made around 4,000 phone calls, planted 500 yard signs, wrote more than 30 letters to the editor, attended a rally, and added their names to a full-page newspaper ad. Thirty volunteers stood outside of polling locations during early voting and on election day. Members spoke at numerous events, were instrumental in the passage of local organizations' resolutions against the amendment, and distributed thousands of flyers. Efforts included three local newspaper ads, including one with nearly 300 names of local residents against the amendment.

What started out as a few people volunteering around the county to spread the word turned out to be a large effort by Carteret County citizens to stand up for what's right. It was an act of defiance in many ways for Carteret County residents. It was as if we were saying, "We are here, and we have a voice. We will not back down from this fight, no matter how impossible it may seem."

After the polls closed, the volunteers for the Carteret Coalition met at a member's house for a results viewing party. The atmosphere was electrifying. Though we lost the vote, everybody knew we had accomplished something nobody would have ever believed could happen in our county. The vast number of people who signed up to donate their time to selflessly inform voters and leave no stone unturned has left a strong impact on this county.

The Carteret Coalition is a grassroots organization, and wouldn't have been possible without its co-chairs Dail Bridges and Miriam Green. They ensured that info was going out to members in a timely manner, organized rallies and volunteer opportunities, and even bought food and gifts for volunteers. These two people are truly beautiful and humble as shown through their selfless and hardworking attitudes throughout the entire process. They still continue to inform coalition members on upcoming opportunities to fight for equality in the Carteret County area.

Jessica Pridgen and Anne York are two coalition members who also deserve a lot of credit. Jessica Pridgen organized the volunteers for poll locations and ensured that high priority polls were covered and that volunteers were constantly informing voters during voting hours. Anne York organized the phone banking, ensuring that the calling lists were properly divided among the volunteers and checking in on the volunteers to figure out how much progress was being made.

The Carteret Coalition Against Constitutional Amendment remains active and is currently working to find new opportunities for its members to fight for equality in Carteret County.

We're so proud to continue profiling local heroes for equality who fought the good fight against Amendment One.

Please click here if you'd like to make a donation to Equality NC. If you'd like to nominate your own Equality Hero, please email me at kay@equalitync.org. Describe your hero's selfless work against the amendment and be sure to include a photo!

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Equality NC Honors Equality Hero, David Parnell, Jr.

By Jen Jones on 07/17/2012 @ 01:12 PM

Charlotte, N.C. - Equality NC asked you to nominate "Equality Heroes"—unsung North Carolinians who worked tirelessly to defeat Amendment One—and you responded with dozens of local leaders who did their best to defeat the discriminatory rewrite. Equality NC is proud to recognize David Parnell, Jr., nominated by his sister Anne Parnell Constable.

From Anne Parnell Constable:

My local hero is David Parnell, Jr. Dave is my brother and worked tirelessly to defeat Amendment One. He volunteered every Monday night for three hours to make calls for Protect All NC Families. He hosted a house party to raise money to defeat Amendment One. He went to countless fundraisers, including one at Nosh where he paid for my ticket too because he knew I was broke. His "Vote Against Amendment One" T-shirt was practically his uniform for months. He persuaded my 83-year-old mom to pose with us for the Vote Against Project, and she and Dave distributed material about the amendment at her retirement community in Raleigh.

Since my dad, David Parnell, Sr., died last April, my mom and I have leaned on Dave for support. He has been "the rock" for my mom, my children, and me. Dave has a full-time job, but he never stopped working to defeat the amendment. My mom and I were concerned because he was working so hard. Dave and I went to see President Obama's speech at UNC. He gave out hundreds of "Defeat the Amendment" buttons while we waited for tickets, and hundreds more as we waited to get into Carmichael to see the President. The students at the beginning of the line, who had been camping out since the wee hours, invited Dave to join them. When he got in, he was asked to sit right behind the President (he's the one with the Vote Against T-shirt in all the photos). He and Jeff also gave out hundreds of buttons at Merlefest in April.

Dave and his partner, Jeff, have been together for 23 years. They traveled to Vermont in August of 2003 for a civil union, and were married at Pullen Baptist Church on February 28, 2004. This August they are going back to Vermont so they can be legally married even though their marriage won't be recognized here in North Carolina. My children Richard (aged 25) and Rachael (22) have always had the blessing of Jeff in their lives. Jeff is their uncle and my brother just as if he were born into our family. Dave is Rachael's godfather, and she and I marched with them in the Pride march last September. They were at Richard's graduation from Tulane and Rachael's graduation from UNC-W. Their generous gift to Rachael helped her to study abroad this summer in Prague. They should be the "poster couple" for gay marriage because they are so caring, responsible, loving, and an example for all of us. I am so proud of Dave. Whether Equality NC recognizes him officially or not, he will always be my hero. He stepped right into that role when my dad died.

We're so proud to continue profiling local heroes for equality who fought the good fight against Amendment One.

Please click here if you'd like to make a donation to Equality NC. If you'd like to nominate your own Equality Hero, please email me at kay@equalitync.org. Describe your hero's selfless work against the amendment and be sure to include a photo!

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Equality NC Honors Equality Hero, Straight Allies Charlotte

By Jen Jones on 07/17/2012 @ 01:12 PM

Charlotte, N.C. - Equality NC asked you to nominate "Equality Heroes"—unsung North Carolinians who worked tirelessly to defeat Amendment One—and you responded with dozens of local leaders who did their best to defeat the discriminatory rewrite. Equality NC is proud to recognize Straight Allies Charlotte.

Straight Allies Charlotte was nominated by Ken Wittenauer, a proud citizen of Charlotte as well as a dedicated board member for Equality NC Foundation. Straight Allies Charlotte did considerable heavy lifting to get out the word about Amendment One to a larger audience, and was incredibly successful at bringing prominent spokespeople to the table.

Straight Allies Charlotte, we salute you!

From Ken Wittenauer:

I would like to nominate Straight Allies Charlotte as an Equality Hero and recognize its founders--Krista Tillman, Chris McLeod, Ed Williams, and Alice Herald--for the notable difference they made in Charlotte in the campaign to oppose Amendment One.

Their own professional credentials and connections were just the building blocks for their many activities which included:

  • Starting Straight Allies Charlotte to encourage straight allies to rally behind and support the LGBT community
  • Organizing a significant fundraising event which involved many leaders from the Charlotte business and civic community and raised over $25,000
  • Creating a grassroots campaign with yard signs and materials to oppose the amendment
  • Writing numerous articles and letters that were printed in the Charlotte Observer and other media opposing the amendment
  • Speaking publicly and often about support for the LGBT community in Charlotte, including appearances before the Charlotte City Council and Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners
  • Supporting the Coalition to Protect All NC Families by arranging for many prominent Charlotte business, religious, and political leaders to volunteer and appear in supportive videos

More generally, their efforts have raised the profile of the LGBT community in Charlotte and challenged the business community to take notice and recognize the serious and broad support for inclusiveness. I know many friends and I have all been inspired, energized, and extremely appreciative of the efforts of these four individuals when it would have been much easier for them to stand on the sidelines or simply write checks. Their efforts have made a lasting difference and they continue to seek ways to support the LGBT community in a meaningful way.

We're so proud to continue profiling local heroes for equality who fought the good fight against Amendment One.

Please click here if you'd like to make a donation to Equality NC. If you'd like to nominate your own Equality Hero, please email me at kay@equalitync.org. Describe your hero's selfless work against the amendment and be sure to include a photo!

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