CHARLOTTE — History will be made tonight when the new city council is sworn in at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center and the city welcomes its first openly gay or lesbian elected official.

LaWana Mayfield celebrates her election victory with a supporter.

Democrat LaWana Mayfield won election in her District 3 seat in November after defeating four-term incumbent Warren Turner in a September primary.

Mayfield has been a longtime community organizer and active in progressive and LGBT circles, including the Charlotte Mecklenburg Community Relations Committee, the local steering committee for the Human Rights Campaign, Charlotte Community Justice Coalition, League of Women Voters and American Friends and Service Committee/Immigrant Solidarity Committee. She also serves on the board of advisors for the Charlotte Lesbian & Gay Fund.activist, working with groups like the Human Rights Campaign and Charlotte Lesbian & Gay Fund.

Supporters have said Mayfield’s presence on the council will change the nature of political debates on LGBT issues.

“By having her on the dais, we’re at the table more than we’ve ever been before,” local attorney Connie Vetter said on election night.

The timing of Mayfield’s ascendancy couldn’t come at a better time. Last month, District 1 City Councilmember Patsy Kinsey said the council would be considering domestic partner benefits.

“We’re almost close enough now that the city council will have the votes to pass domestic partner benefits,” Kinsey told an audience of about 75 gathered at the LGBT Community Center of Charlotte.

Kinsey has been working with an ad-hoc group of community members pushing for a variety of changes in local policies and ordinances. This writer has been among the members of the informal group, which is seeking a domestic partner benefits plan similar to that approved by the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners in December 2009.

Charlotte is the last major city in the state to take up consideration of LGBT-inclusive policies or ordinances. In addition to a domestic partners plan, activists have also been seeking a more inclusive employment non-discrimination ordinance.

The council’s swearing in will take place at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center, 600 E. Fourth St., at 7 p.m.

Matt Comer

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