CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A national report from an association of state-based LGBT advocacy organizations notes that significant progress on LGBT equality at city and county levels often precedes progress at the state level. Instances of progress in the Carolinas are also noted in the report.
On Wednesday, the Equality Federation released their report, “Building Momentum for Change: How Local and Incremental Policy Campaigns Contribute to Statewide Victories.” The research contains several examples of local progress and statewide advocacy efforts in states across the nation.
Federal policy initiatives like marriage equality often get major media and community attention. But, the Equality Federation says progress on local levels have been significant contributors to larger change.
“No state has ever achieved statewide discrimination protections for LGBT people without first passing a policy in its major city,” Ian Palmquist, one of the report’s authors and a former executive director of Equality North Carolina, said in a release. “In every conversation we had with state and national leaders, we heard one message loud and clear: local and incremental campaigns build the capacity of our movement’s organizations and the skills of our leaders—so that we’re ready for the next win. And the one after that.”
In North Carolina, the report cites the state’s landmark 2009 School Violence Prevention Act, which protected all students from bullying and harassment and included both sexual orientation and gender identity.
Palmquist, who worked at Equality North Carolina during the campaign for the anti-bullying law, said the support of local allies was important in passage of the legislation. Iredell-Statesville Schools, for example, had passed their own LGBT-inclusive policies and their superintendent spoke out for change.
“The superintendent of the Iredell-Statesville Schools, a rural community in the foothills, was one of the most effective messengers in making the case that enumeration works and hasn’t caused the problems the opposition predicted,” Palmquist noted in the report.
In South Carolina, the report cites South Carolina Equality Executive Director Ryan Wilson and his organization’s work in passing local non-discrimination ordinances. Though South Carolina lacks statewide employment, housing and public accommodations laws, about seven percent of South Carolinians are protected in cities like Columbia and Charleston.
“The community is not used to seeing much positive momentum in a state like this, so any time there is a forward step at the municipal level, it shows that South Carolina isn’t off the map,” Wilson said in the report. “It creates excitement and hope, and we’ve seen new levels of engagement with our work after each of these wins.”
The full report can be read online at eqfed.org/momentum.