Gay rights are civil rights, say equality advocates

Equality North Carolina slams proponents of anti-LGBT constitutional amendment

RALEIGH, N.C. — Statewide LGBT advocacy and lobbying group Equality North Carolina on Friday countered comments made by a proponent of a proposed anti-LGBT constitutional amendment.

On Aug. 28, N.C. Values Coalition Executive Director Tami Fitzgerald told Greensboro’s News & Record, “It’s not about civil rights, and it’s an insult to the civil rights movement to say so.”

Alex Miller, Equality North Carolina’s interim executive director, called Fitzgerald’s comments misleading.

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“Ms. Fitzgerald’s inflammatory statements misrepresent the reality of support from leaders in the Civil Rights community in a broader effort to mislead lawmakers and divide the public,” Miller said in a release.

The group also highlighted comments from state Rep. Larry Hall (D-Durham), a member of the Executive Committee of the Durham Chapter of the NAACP.

“Tami Fitzgerald does not speak for the civil rights movement, it’s advocates or it’s organizations,” Hall said. “She and the groups for which she’s worked for have consistently fought against human and civil rights issues that disproportionately affect poor minority citizens, who even now endure greater suffering due to her efforts. This so-called “marriage amendment” is just such a discriminatory attack on a minority of our fellow citizens. I oppose this amendment because it is morally wrong, totally unnecessary and damaging to our economy at the worst possible time.”

The state legislature will likely consider the proposed anti-LGBT amendment when they return to Raleigh on Sept. 12 for a special fall session devoted solely to constitutional amendments. As written, the Senate’s version would ban marriage, civil unions, domestic partnerships and other relationship recognition for same-sex couples.

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At a home-district town hall meeting in Cornelius in August, Republican Speaker of the House Thom Tillis called the anti-LGBT amendment debate a “difficult” and “emotional issue.” He also confirmed the amendment’s potential hearing when the General Assembly again takes up business.

“If my caucus and if the majority of the members in the House and Democrats choose to have that heard then I feel compelled as the leader to have it heard,” Tillis said at the public forum.

Lawmakers briefly considered bringing up the amendment during a special July session on redistricting, though that plan was later scrapped in favor of an original proposal to hear it during a special September session devoted solely to constitutional amendments. When the news of a potential vote hit LGBT advocates, the community swung into action. Alex Miller, interim executive director of Equality North Carolina, credited his organization’s statewide, grassroots advocacy and mobilization efforts for helping convince legislators to abort their last-minute attempt to hear the amendment.

Equality North Carolina plans to hold a rally to oppose the amendment at the state legislature’s Halifax Mall in Raleigh on Sept. 13. A series of local, hometown vigils will be held in cities across the state on the evening of Sept. 12. See equalitync.org or our calendar of events for more information.

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Posted by Matt Comer

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