Is Twitter the new vehicle for LGBTQ activism?
Updated: March 20, 2017 at 1:02 pm
ENGAGE: Write a letter to the editor | Comment on this story
RALEIGH, N.C. — In the digital age, social media has become more and more important, to the point that news stories are being written about Tweets. Recently, two North Carolina politicians have come under fire for their use of Twitter. Sen. Joel Ford issued an apology after an online altercation with an LGBTQ advocate, and former Rep. Chris Sgro is drawing criticism for allegedly lobbying via Twitter too soon after his legislative term.
As the News & Observer noted, former state legislators are required by law to complete a six-month ‘cooling-off’ period before engaging in lobbying activities. This requirement is complicating the life of Chris Sgro, a former N.C. House Representative who is also the executive director of Equality NC, the state’s largest LGBTQ advocacy organization.
Sgro affirms that he has not been lobbying, which is defined by state law as “influencing or attempting to influence legislative or executive action, or both, through direct communication or activities with a designated individual (such as an elected official) or that designated individual’s immediate family.” His Twitter feed, however, has drawn some questions.
Sgro has sent a number of Tweets directly to members of the North Carolina General Assembly (NCGA), mostly criticism of House Bill 2 (HB2) and “compromise” repeal bills that LGBTQ advocate deem discriminatory.
One of the authors of the state’s lobbying regulations, former Republican Rep. Paul Stam, told News & Observer that Sgro’s Twitter use falls into a gray area in terms of legality.
“I would think that what he does grassroots from his email machine is probably not covered [under the law], but what he does directly with members is,” Stam said. “It doesn’t look good, and it definitely is not within the spirit of the law.”
However, this criticism has not stopped Sgro from advocating via Twitter, including calling out Sen. Joel Ford on his anti-LGBTQ record. Ford, now running for Charlotte mayor, has also recently faced repercussions for ill-advised Twitter use.
Ford took part in a controversial Twitter exchange on March 14 that involved LGBTQ activist and former qnotes editor Matt Comer. Another Twitter user called Ford homophobic, to which the senator responded with a confusion GIF. Comer then criticized Ford, comparing his GIF use to former Mayor Pat McCrory’s “cold shoulder.”
Ford’s response to Comer was a GIF of a dog defecating in the snow.
The senator’s move has received serious backlash, including criticism from The Charlotte Observer. The paper’s editorial board scolded Ford:
Certainly, we understand it’s not pleasant to be criticized, especially when you believe it’s unfair. We also understand the temptation that Twitter offers for snarky responses to snarky barbs. But a North Carolina senator needs to resist that easy satisfaction, and a prospective mayor of Charlotte needs to understand that criticism is a part of the job. In fact, it will be more frequent and more biting than what Ford faced Tuesday. Is he equipped to respond the way a leader – or even just an adult – should?
Comer was interviewed about the incident by NC Policy Watch and said he looks forward to an open dialogue with Sen. Ford about LGBTQ issues. The senator called Comer to apologize and agreed to meet for coffee.
Ford’s campaign manager, Dakota Cary, said that the incident was not ill-intentioned. Apparently Ford only intended to convey an awkward feeling, not cause offense.
“I think there’s a disconnect between trying to use GIFs as a way to communicate with people and what they actually mean,” Cary told WFAE. “You end up with a problem like this where what he wants to convey and what comes across (are) two different things.”
Whatever the intention, Ford has apologized, but both his and Sgro’s stories raise another question: what should be the importance of social media in politics?
In a nation where the President’s 2 a.m. Twitter rants are highly publicized, it seems that this vehicle for communication causes more problems than it solves. However, as Sgro and Comer both seem to realize, social media has the potential to reach legislators more directly than other forms of protest can.
Is Twitter becoming the newest method for LGBTQ activism? These stories suggest that there is power in a Tweet — but also danger.
- Equality NC’s Sgro to resign, hired with HRC
- 4 things Sen. Ford’s lame attempt to play LGBTQ ally can teach us
- Observer hosts informational HB2 forum
- McCrory meets with Donald Trump as LGBTQ rights advocates celebrate his defeat
- Hate crime bill would expand LGBTQ protections in NC
- Equality NC Day of Advocacy to take place Feb. 22
You can support independent, local LGBT media!
Give a one-time gift or sign up for ongoing voluntary online subscription to support qnotes' nearly three-decade long community service and keep our publication's dynamic, hard-hitting and insightful news and entertainment coverage alive. Click here to support us today.
You can support QNotesYou can support independent, local LGBT media! Give a one-time gift or sign up for an ongoing, voluntary online subscription to support qnotes' nearly three-decade long community service and keep our publication's dynamic, hard-hitting and insightful news and entertainment coverage alive. Click here to support us today.
Print Edition: On Stands Now
Click on the reader below to see the full digital print edition, including the latest news and updates from our advertisers.
Get set for the colors of autumn with our Fall Arts & Entertainment issue. We’ve got a host of enjoyable artistic adventures from which to choose. We even have a feature on drag ethics and a news story on NC Pride. We also have current local, regional, national and global news and interesting features along with compelling commentary.
- The Nazis who descended on Charlottesville are coming to Charlotte
- Queer sex slang: Know it or beware
- Derricka Banner killed in Charlotte, becomes 20th transgender person murdered in 2017
- Triangle: Cohousing Progress, Center Awards, ENC Gala, AIDS Walk, Patient Training
- NC Pride alters 2017 celebration
- Concerns raised as anti-gay Elevation Church makes inroads at local schools
- Attorney gives Charlotte City Council green light to bring back prayer
- QPoll: Do you support Charlotte City Council starting meetings with prayer?
- Ketner apologizes for ‘outing’ S.C. Republicans
- Loading ...
Trump rescinded the Golden State Warriors invitation to the White House after Stephen Curry said he wouldn't attend. more
Republican Andrew Murray is President Donald Trump’s nominee to become the next U.S. Attorney for Western North Carolina. more
City Attorney Bob Hagemann told the council’s Governance and Accountability committee he believed the invocation is constitutional, but also made s... more
"Bring your torches, gear, and flags! As for guns, we're waiting on specific info from the police." more