RALEIGH — Statewide LGBT advocacy group EqualityNC says this year’s Day of Action on March 24 in Raleigh attracted a record number of participants. More than 200 LGBT and straight ally North Carolinians gathered at the Legislative Building to lobby elected officials on several issues less than a month after thousands of anti-gay activists from hundreds of churches across the state gathered at the site for a rally to “defend traditional marriage.”
The statewide lobbying and education group organized the Day of Action to push support for the anti-bullying bill, a comprehensive sex education bill, employment non-discrimination, repeal of the state’s unconstitutional Crimes Against Nature statute and a hate crimes bill. The group’s members and supporters also sought to persuade officials to stand against an anti-LGBT, anti-family marriage amendment currently assigned to committees inside the state’s Senate and House.
Top among the group’s priorities this session is the anti-bullying bill, the School Violence Prevention Act. The legislation is being sponsored by Sen. Julia Boseman (D-New Hanover) in the Senate and Rep. Rick Glazier in the House. Boseman is North Carolina’s only openly gay or lesbian elected official in the General Assembly.
Boseman told Q-Notes that she believes she’ll have the votes to pass the bill with the enumerated categories protecting LGBT students and others, which were stripped out of the bill passed by the Senate last session. She expects the bill will come up for consideration after the Senate has handed over the state budget to the House.
The couple hundred Day of Action participants met with elected officials through the morning. Q-Notes was able to sit in on a couple of those meetings.
In a meeting with constituents, House Republican Leader, Rep. Paul Stam (R-Wake) said he was opposed to including enumerated categories protecting LGBT students in the anti-bullying bill. He said the bill should simply say all bullying is prohibited.
Stam also said he favored the anti-gay constitutional marriage amendment because same-sex relationships “threaten the well-being of children” and that those relationships are “not a good environment in which to raise children.”
Other media outlets and bloggers, including Durham’s Pam Spaulding (PamsHouseBlend.com) also participated and reported on the event.
Spaulding met with several African-American legislators, many of whom were supportive of LGBT-inclusive legislation. A distant relative of Spaulding’s, Rep. Sandra Spaulding Hughes (D-New Hanover) is a sponsor of the comprehensive sex ed bill, the Healthy Youth Act.
“She seemed quite progressive on many issues,” Spaulding told Q-Notes. “She’s definitely at the forefront of comprehensive sex ed.”
In an April 2008 interview with Q-Notes, Hughes indicated her opposition to the anti-gay marriage amendment and her support of the School Violence Prevention Act. She’s also signed on as a sponsor of the bill to repeal the state’s unconstitutional sodomy laws.
Ian Palmquist, EqualityNC executive director, said several legislators responded favorably to the Day of Action.
“The folks I talked to were really pleased to have constituents come in and talk to them, particularly the folks who had driven in from other parts of the state,” he said.
Palmquist said the group will continue to promote the School Violence Prevention Act, citing last session’s near passage.
“We were unbelievably close last year,” he said. “We believe we’ve picked up a couple of votes thus far, but everything can change day to day so I can’t promise we have it all lined up. I want to make sure that we do everything to hold on to those votes because we know the right wing will be doing everything they can to chip away at that.”
The group will hold two upcoming events discussing the School Violence Prevention Act and other issues, such as transgender policy. On April 7, EqualityNC will host a forum in Fayetteville. On April 16, a forum on the anti-bullying bill and transgender issues will be held in Asheville. For more information and to RSVP, visit www.equalitync.org.