It’s another year for the history books, folks. And, wow, it’s quite a year. Legal advances in equality, a major midterm election, changes in our local community and more kept the staff here at qnotes rolling with news updates all year long. Here’s our recap of some of the most important, significant stories we reported on this year, along with stories, commentaries and other issues among the most-visited on our website — stories and issues you thought were important enough to share, discuss and debate widely.
There’s no doubt that forward movement of marriage equality was this year’s top story. News on legal advancements, lawsuits, court decisions and advocacy kept popping up throughout the year.
It all began in February, when a U.S. District Court judge in Virginia overturned the commonwealth’s anti-LGBT marriage amendment, setting into motion future moves that would finally bring full marriage equality to North Carolina.
Meanwhile, three cases in North Carolina continued to wait their day in district court — two filed by the American Civil Liberties Union in Greensboro and another filed privately in Asheville. In April, a fourth case was added to the mix when the United Church of Christ along with other clergy from a variety of faith traditions and same-gender couples filed suit in Charlotte. The church’s suit was the first to argue against an anti-LGBT marriage amendment using the First Amendment as its legal rationale.
The Virginia case eventually wound up at the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals where, in July, a three-judge panel upheld the lower court’s ruling overturning the legislation. The decision was put on hold as it was appealed to the Supreme Court, along with several other appellate cases across the country.
Finally, on Oct. 6, the Supreme Court took up the issue. Well, not really. The court didn’t have enough votes to bring any of the marriage appeals, including Virginia’s, onto their docket. The lack of movement, in effect, upheld the circuit courts’ rulings.
Virginia opened their marriages up to same-gender couples the same day. A couple in South Carolina attempted to get a marriage license a couple days later, though their state Supreme Court halted any forward movement until federal courts could intervene. And, less than a week later, late in the afternoon on Friday, Oct. 10, a Western North Carolina judge ruled on the United Church of Christ’s case, striking down the state’s anti-LGBT amendment.
What followed were days of celebration across the state. In Raleigh, Greensboro and Asheville, local registers of deeds offices remained open late, issuing licenses to dozens and dozens of same-gender couples who had lined up in anticipation of a positive ruling. In Charlotte and in the rest of the state, couples waited patiently over the weekend. On Monday, they rushed to local courthouses to receive licenses and wed.
In the aftermath of the rulings, interest shifted to ensuring the new legal lay of the land was protected across the state. Advocates, including those with Equality North Carolina, stood up when a handful of local registers of deeds and magistrates either refused to issue marriage licenses or perform the marriages.
Meanwhile Republican state legislative leaders — House Speaker (and now U.S. Sen.-elect) Thom Tillis and Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger — hired attorneys affiliated with the anti-LGBT National Organization for Marriage to continue defending the state. They’ve appealed to both the Fourth Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court.
For a full archive of all our marriage equality coverage this year, visit goqnotes.com/to/marriagenc/.
Elections leave LGBTs voiceless
There’s been a lot of debate and discussion in this year’s midterm elections. The results were stunning, though perhaps not surprising. Republicans retook the U.S. Senate, including North Carolina Democrat Kay Hagan getting tossed out in favor of Republican Thom Tillis, who will join Republican Richard Burr in representing the state. Republicans also maintained their control in the North Carolina House and Senate.
In just a few weeks, the legislature will again meet in Raleigh. When it does, it’ll be the first time in a decade that either two of the chambers will have zero openly gay or lesbian representation. That’s due to openly gay candidates’ defeat in elections this year. First, primary elections in the spring cast off several openly gay candidates vying for opportunities to sit in Raleigh, including Charlotte candidate Ty Turner, a Democrat in the Senate District 49 primary.
Another opportunity to send openly gay representation to Raleigh failed when Mecklenburg County Democrats opted to skip over openly gay Plaza Midwood businessman Billy Maddalon, who served briefly as a Charlotte City Council member in 2013, and instead appoint Jeff Jackson to Charlotte Mayor Dan Clodfelter’s old Senate seat. The legislative seat had been left vacant when Clodfelter was appointed mayor after Patrick Cannon’s embarrassing federal corruptions charges (he’s since been convicted and is now serving time in a West Virginia prison). For his part, state Sen. Jeff Jackson has been an outspoken LGBT ally, appearing at several LGBT events and working on LGBT issues and causes.
See all of our Election 2014 coverage from this year at goqnotes.com/in/election-2014/.
A community in flux
Locally, Charlotte’s LGBT community saw a great deal of turmoil and change. Primarily, debates and discussions continued to swirl around the LGBT Community Center of Charlotte. Visit our online year-in-review features at goqnotes.com/2014review/ for a special online-only look back at the center’s challenging year and see an archive of all past center coverage at goqnotes.com/in/lgbtcentercharlotte/.
In many respects, it was you — the reader — who helped determine the top stories this year. The overwhelming majority of our top 50 most-visited pieces of content online dealt with issues surrounding marriage equality. But there were other important stories and commentaries readers found enjoyable or important, too. Here’s a quick review of some of the other most important stories and issues represented in our top 50 this year.
Violence in the community: Two instances of violence directed toward members of our community took on increased interest from readers. In August, longtime gay bar owner and philanthropist Greg Brafford, owner of the Woodshed Lounge, was shot multiple times in an attempted robbery outside his home (goqnotes.com/in/greg-brafford/). His wounds were serious, but not life threatening and he’s made a positive recovery, including recently being seen visiting the staff and clients at House of Mercy. Later, in November, a gay veteran sadly lost his life after a brutal assault in Greensboro (goqnotes.com/32755/). The accused in that crime is facing murder charges.
LGBT Faith: The intersections between LGBT life and faith attracted a great deal of attention this year. A commentary, originally written in 2012, on the presence of LGBT people in Southern Gospel music (goqnotes.com/18360/) continued to rack up readers online. In September, student Stephen Lovegrove penned a commentary, “The problem of privilege at Elevation Church” (goqnotes.com/31319/), calling the local Baptist megachurch to account for its LGBT exclusion. Concerns have long mounted over the church’s beliefs on LGBT people. A 2012 story on their outreach in local public schools (goqnotes.com/19794/) continued to rack up views this year.
Transgender students take front and center: Nationally, transgender issues took on a more high-profile role in our movement. The impact was felt locally, too. In February, transgender East Mecklenburg High School senior Blake Brockington was crowned homecoming king, a first for his school and for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (goqnotes.com/27350/ and goqnotes.com/27414/). Also in the spring, Andraya Williams, a transgender student at Central Piedmont Community College, took on her school’s administration after an alleged incident of harassment on campus. Resulting protests, media coverage and community action brought to light the issues faced by transgender people in accessing public services and accommodations. (See all of our coverage of that incident at goqnotes.com/in/cpcc/.)
Nightlife losses: In Charlotte, community members gave pause when several gay nightlife establishments shuttered their doors. The first was longtime lesbian bar, club and restaurant, Hartigan’s Irish Pub in March (goqnotes.com/28226/), followed the same week by Lake Wylie’s Rainbow In (goqnotes.com/28237/). Another club, Marigny, closed in May (goqnotes.com/29583/). : :
more: Visit goqnotes.com/2014review/ for online-only year-in-review features.