Equality North Carolina responds to June 2 legislature protest

by QNotes Staff  Staff Reports  editor@goqnotes.com
Published: June 6, 2011 in Blog

Equality North Carolina, the statewide LGBT advocacy and lobbying organization, has responded via email and web to their supporters today to the June 2 protest by and arrest of three gay activists who burst onto the floor of the North Carolina House of Representatives. qnotes has republished their response below, in addition to our already published news article on the arrests and our editor’s column, “Direct action must be smart, strategic,” which will be published in our June 11, 2011, print edition.

The statement from Equality North Carolina follows below:

We wanted to update you on our campaign to stop the anti-LGBT amendment and concerns about the recent protest at the General Assembly. As you likely know, last Thursday three people protested the amendment by entering the House chamber and disrupting the session before being arrested. Equality NC does not support this protest.

We understand that there are differences of opinion about tactics in our community, and we recognize that all of us share the goal of winning full equality for LGBT Americans. We support strategic, targeted, well-planned grassroots action that focuses on moving votes in the legislature. Our tactics this year are focused on engaging constituents to contact their legislators through our postcard campaign, door-to-door canvass, and face-to-face meetings in Raleigh and in their districts, as well as getting grasstops leaders from the faith and business communities to speak out. These efforts complement the work of our three registered lobbyists.

Based on many conversations with legislators of both parties—people we’ve spent years building relationships with—we know our tactics are making a difference and we were in a stronger position to defeat the amendment in the legislature than we thought possible even a few months ago. Although the outcome was far from certain, we were seeing real progress.

After Thursday’s protest, that has shifted and our chances of keeping the anti-LGBT amendment off the ballot have been diminished. Legislative leaders have now indicated that the amendment is likely to be brought up during a special session of the legislature on constitutional amendments this September.

Unfortunately, this protest had the opposite of its intended effect. No legislator or lobbyist we’ve spoken to believes it furthered our cause. In fact, we have been told it has caused considerable damage to our efforts.

In addition, though we are sure it was not intended this way, the action on Thursday scared many Representatives not because of what was being protested, but because legislators work in an environment where threats are common and security is light, and no one knew what was happening.

As one former legislative staffer told us, “an event like that is terrifying because you don’t know whether it is a harmless political stunt or the beginning of a massacre. It sets everyone on edge, hardens beliefs that are already out there, and makes those who are wavering question the motives and intent of all opposing the amendment.” Because of this action, there are calls to tighten security considerably, and citizen access to legislators will be diminished for it.

To be clear, if the amendment does go to the ballot, we will not blame these protesters. Ultimately, only the legislators who vote for bigotry and discrimination will be responsible for their own actions.

We respect the right of different organizations and individuals to speak out and take action in different ways, and we are eager to work in partnership when we can. We just hope that, going forward, everyone working for fairness will consider the likely impact of their actions based on data and experience with what works at the North Carolina General Assembly, so we can all be as effective as possible in achieving our shared vision.

Although our work to stop the amendment has become more challenging, we believe we still have a real shot at defeating it. Equality NC will now focus on trying to regain lost support and encouraging additional legislators to support fairness and not allow discrimination against LGBT North Carolinians to become part of our state constitution.

We have a great team who will work tirelessly to implement our strategic efforts ahead of the expected special session in September. We are confident that, if it can be stopped, Equality NC will make that happen.

For Equality,

Ian Palmquist, Executive Director
Dan Gurley, Board Chair, Equality NC
Rod Goins, Board Chair, Equality NC Foundation