Equality NC recognizes 2010 Equality Champions

Reprinted with permisison from Equality North Carolina:

Roberta Dunn, Equality NC Foundation 2010 Equality Champion for the Charlotte Region

Roberta is being recognized for her outstanding leadership and work with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department on behalf of Charlotte’s LGBT community. She has led the effort to open communication with CMPD officials and successfully encouraged CMPD and its chief to hold an open forum with the LGBT community. As a result of her efforts, CMPD may now also create an LGBT community liaison position.

Roberta is a transgender woman. She has been married for 27 years and has four children. Since her retirement five years ago, she has been living her life as the person she always felt she was, a woman. She is active in the Charlotte/Mecklenburg area in several organizations including HRC, MeckPAC, and Carolina Transgender Society. Her goal in working through these organizations is to promote greater understanding and acceptance of the LGBT community and its needs.

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Ellen W. Gerber, Equality NC Foundation 2010 Equality Champion for the Triad Region

Despite her “retirement” at the end of 1991, Ellen W. “Lennie” Gerber has continued to practice law on a volunteer basis by assisting on cases, doing research, and drafting documents for various civil rights organizations including the ACLU of North Carolina, the North Carolina Gay Advocacy Legal Alliance (NCGALA), the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund. That work led, in 1997, to the privilege of arguing the case of Pulliam v. Smith to the Supreme Court of North Carolina.

From 1992 through 2001, Lennie worked extensively as a volunteer with Summit House, a community corrections program designed to keep families together. In 1994, she realized a long-term goal when, with two other attorneys, she co-founded NCGALA.

Lennie’s long-time partner of 44 years and counting is Pearl Berlin.

Reverend Joe Hoffman and Noel Nickle, Equality NC Foundation’s 2010 Equality Champions for the Western Region

When Noel and Joe were married, they had a religious wedding in North Carolina and a legal wedding in Vermont, acknowledging that their gay and lesbian friends and family members could not (yet) be legally married in North Carolina. Noel is a capital mitigation specialist and works with individuals facing the death penalty. Joe is Senior Pastor of the First Congregational United Church of Christ in Asheville, where he has served since 1996. They live in Asheville with their children.

Both Noel and Joe have been involved in LGBTQ advocacy for many years. In 2001, Noel advocated for and led a year-long process for First Congregational to become an Open and Affirming (ONA) congregation. Together, with Rev. Mahan Siler, they helped found a local, grassroots organization, “People of Faith for Just Relationships,” which advocates for marriage equality. In 2005 this group partnerned with other LGBTQ supportive groups to form The Coalition for Equality. Noel and Joe also co-chaired with Laurey Masterton “Love Makes a Family,” a program of the Center for Diversity Education at the University of North Carolina at Asheville.

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In 2006, Joe received national attention when he preached a sermon entitled “It is Time for This to Change.” He declared to the congregation, which gave him a standing ovation, that he would no longer legalize heterosexual marriages until he could legalize the loving, just, and mutual relationships of all the members of his church. Joe provides ongoing leadership to clergy advocating for LGBTQ issues in the community and most recently generated widespread clergy support for Asheville City Council’s vote to provide domestic partner benefits for all city employees. He also serves on the advisory board for YouthOutRight and is on the Asheville Buncombe Community Relations Law Enforcement Committee helping to provide a safer community for the full diversity of people who live in the area.

Aaron Lucier, Equality NC Foundation 2010 Equality Champion for the Eastern Region

Aaron Lucier is the current faculty/staff advisor for the Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Transgendered Student Union (GLBTSU) at East Carolina University, and has worked with the student group in this role for fourteen years. He is active in the Greenville community working with issues related to social justice, HIV/AIDS, and creating social outlets/connections for the local GLBT community. Aaron is the current president of the board of the Pitt County AIDS Service Organization, and also volunteers on a disaster action team with the Pitt County Chapter of the American Red Cross.

Aaron is employed as the director of housing operations in the Campus Living department at ECU. As a college housing professional, he has served as the chair of the Association of College and University Housing Officers International’s GLBT Concerns Committee, and in 2008 was awarded the association’s Judy Spain Award for his work with GLBT issues and students.

Joshua Lee Weaver, Equality NC Foundation 2010 Equality Champion for the Triangle Region

Joshua is a native of North Carolina. Since Proposition 8 passed in California in November of 2008, he has become an activist for LGBT rights. Joshua’s accomplishments are many, but what points best to his work for LGBT equality in North Carolina is his work to persuade the city of Durham to adopt a same-sex marriage resolution. His proposal to the city was accepted, and was featured on local news and in local papers, blogs, and even The Advocate. Not content with just getting one city to accept same-sex marriage, Joshua has expanded his efforts to other North Carolina cities.

Joshua is one of many younger activists to have become involved in LGBT equality work over the past few years. His dedication speaks for itself, and clearly he already inspires many people. He received thirteen nominations to be our 2010 Equality Champion for the Triangle Region!

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