Organizations, business leaders step up in face of anti-gay amendment

Equality North Carolina, Human Rights Campaign fielding organizers and action campaigns across the state

by Matt Comer  Editor  editor@goqnotes.com
Published: March 17, 2011 in News

LGBT advocacy organizations are ramping up local and statewide action and education campaigns as the possibility of an anti-gay constitutional amendment battle continues to loom over the state legislature.

In February, Gaston County state Sen. James Forrester (R) introduced for the eighth year in a row an amendment that would prohibit all recognition of same-sex relationships. The amendment text is among the most severe and extreme versions possible, outlawing recognition by state and local governments of any and all relationships including marriages and civil unions. The text would also prohibit domestic partner benefits. A similar amendment has yet to be introduced in the House.

Pounding the pavement

Last month, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) granted $10,000 to Equality North Carolina. The group said at the time the funds would be used to shore up programming and hired grassroots organizers. Josh Wynne, who has worked with Equality North Carolina in the past, has returned as a community organizer.

The group is looking for similar organizers to work in Eastern North Carolina and among the faith community. Equality North Carolina also recently hired Jenn Jones in a full-time communications director role.

HRC has also committed field organizer Jessica Osborne toward work with faith communities in the state for the next two months. Other HRC staff will work in the state as well. Last weekend, for example, HRC sent their Religion & Faith Program director, Sharon Groves, to meet with various faith leaders in Asheville, Greensboro, Raleigh and Charlotte. Regional Field Director Karin Quimby was also in the state, and will travel back to North Carolina intermittently throughout the next few months.

A corporate stand for equality

While Equality North Carolina and HRC galvanize and engage faith leaders and citizens, other LGBT North Carolinians are working to gain the support of the business community.

Mitchell Gold, CEO and co-founder of Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, and Bob Page, CEO and founder of Replacements, Ltd., said in a statement released earlier this month that the amendment would stigmatize LGBT North Carolinians and their families and young people. Gold’s and Page’s statement was issued through Faith in America, a non-profit group founded by Gold to bring awareness and understanding about the harm caused by anti-LGBT religion-based bigotry.

“We’re asking North Carolina business leaders to take a lead role in opposing any attempt to bring additional suffering to gay youth and their families in North Carolina,” Gold, whose company is headquartered in Alexander County, said in the statement. “Many of these kids are in high school or college right now preparing for future employment with some North Carolina business. Their parents, uncles and aunts are some of our most valued employees. Thousands of gay and lesbian individuals are working in our companies today and are recognized for their abilities and accomplishments. I believe we as a business community should let our gay youth and their families and all our gay and lesbian employees know that we as a business community stand with them. We are against any attempt to degrade their human dignity and marginalize them as unequal.”

Page, whose company is based in Greensboro, said the amendment would hurt children, including his own: “We know that there are thousands of children in North Carolina, like mine, being raised by same-sex couples. I do not want them to think for one minute that their families are valued less than others.”

Page continued: ”While I’m sure some in the anti-gay religious industry hope to divide our state as they attempt to raise money for their own purposes, I’m asking North Carolina business leaders to contact their Senators and Representatives to let them know that we have much more important business matters to attend to in North Carolina. And, it’s especially important to let our elected leaders know how vulnerable our youth are to messages of bigotry, and that the well-being of all North Carolina’s gay and lesbian youth and their families matters more than politics.”

Gold and Page say the amendment could stymie economic growth and produce prejudice and hostility that will eventually permeate schools, churches and businesses.

“We’re asking members of our business community, those who make a difference in the lives of so many North Carolinians every day, to stand opposed to this attempt by Sen. Forrester and others who want to subject our citizenry to such social trauma,” Gold said.