Forsyth County gay ally Earline Parmon retiring from state Senate

Resignation provides second opportunity for state Democrats to appoint openly LGBT lawmaker; current legislature includes no openly LGBT representatives

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — A longtime member of the General Assembly has announced she’ll resign and serve as a staffer for a newly elected member of Congress, ending more than a decade of LGBT-friendly service and opening a second opportunity for state Democrats to ensure openly LGBT representation in a hostile and unfriendly state legislature.

The Winston-Salem Chronicle reports that state Sen. Earline Parmon, a Democrat representing portions of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County, said Wednesday she’ll resign her Senate seat on Jan. 28. She’ll go to work with U.S. Rep. Alma Adams, a newly elected Democrat in the 12th Congressional District, as her director of outreach.

Parmon told the African-American community paper that she’ll still be as involved as ever in the local community.

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“I’m still as close as a telephone call or email. I will be right here in the community — in Winston-Salem or Greensboro, everyday,” she said. “I think I’m going to be more available and be able to sit down and meet with more people now than when I was in Raleigh four days a week.”

Parmon was elected to the North Carolina Senate in 2012, becoming the first black woman to represent Forsyth County in that body. Before that, she served a decade in the state House, after serving for 12 years on the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners. Parmon was also an educator and school principal, founding the now-defunct LIFT Academy, working with minority and at-risk youth.

It was her experience in education that made her a strong LGBT ally in the state House. In 2007, as lawmakers first debated an LGBT-inclusive anti-bullying bill, Parmon stood against attempts to strip out enumerated categories that eventually made North Carolina the first state in the South to pass a statewide LGBT-inclusive anti-bullying law. The bill finally passed and was signed into law by Gov. Bev Perdue in 2009.

“I am opposing this amendment because the bill must carry strong language that we must provide a safe environment for all our children,” Parmon said during debate on the House floor, in response to an amendment to strip out the enumerated categories. “I have years of experience as an administrator in public education. I can tell you that because of our own biases I had to discipline teachers because homosexual children were being bullied and teachers didn’t speak up and when I asked one teacher why she did nothing, the teacher said she thought it would help make a man out of them. We must be specific and send a strong message to those with these biases.”

The bill, Parmon said at the time, was “about protecting our children and telling the adults we hold responsible for their protection that these children are vulnerable. We must send a strong message. We must have a safe environment. We must be specific about it.”

In September 2011, Parmon voted against a bill that eventually put an anti-LGBT state constitutional amendment banning same-gender marriage on a May 2012 ballot.

Opening is renewed opportunity to seat LGBT rep

Parmon’s resignation will begin a series of events to replace her, opening an opportunity for an LGBT lawmaker to be appointed.

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The General Assembly’s last out lawmaker, former Rep. Marcus Brandon (D-Guilford), didn’t run for reelection in 2014. Before him, former state Sen. Julia Boseman (D-New Hanover), left office after declining to run for reelection in 2010.

Parmon’s replacement will be chosen by the Forsyth County Democratic Party County Executive Committee and then formally appointed by Gov. Pat McCrory.

The same process was followed when former state Sen. Dan Clodfelter left his office last April to accept his appointment as mayor of Charlotte. At the time, openly gay businessman Billy Maddalon had hoped to be appointed to Clodfelter’s seat. Mecklenburg County Democrats instead opted for current Sen. Jeff Jackson, effectively sealing off the chance for open LGBT representation after the defeat of two other openly gay candidates in last year’s primary and general elections.

Parmon’s resignation changes that — giving Democrats in the state yet another opportunity to place an openly LGBT lawmaker in a state legislature currently without visible representation from the community.

LGBT advocates had previously argued during Maddalon’s election attempt that openly LGBT representation was necessary in a hostile, Republican-dominated body widely expected to consider anti-LGBT measures this session. Equality North Carolina, a statewide LGBT lobbying group, had endorsed Maddalon, who came in second to Jackson.

The Winston-Salem Journal reports that Parmon’s successor will be chosen by the party at a meeting next Thursday, Jan. 29, at Kennedy High School, 890 E. 11th St. Three leaders have expressed interest, according to county party executive director Susan Campbell. They include: state House Rep. Ed Hanes of District 72, covering portions of North Winston-Salem; the Rev. Paul Lowe, pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church; and former Winston-Salem City Councilmember Joycelyn Johnson.

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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.