Monday, December 15, 2008

Get a Red Ribbon License Plate

Our recent update on the Red Ribbon license plates -- to help increase AIDS awareness -- made me realize that I need to order one. (Basically, there need to be 300 ordered before the DMV will produce them, and the AIDS Alliance currently only has 100 orders.) You should consider it, too.

Red Ribbon License Plate

In general, I don't think of my life as being directly affected by HIV/AIDS, but with just a little thought, I realize that it totally is.

I was adopted as a kid by my Aunt Evelyn. Her best friend was a young man named Donnie, and he was the hero of my young years. He was friendly and energetic, and he always, always took time to play with me and teach me games. He died when I was nine-years-old, and it wasn't until years later, when I was a teenager, that I found out his death was from complications related to AIDS.

I also used to work for a hospice organization. While HIV/AIDS isn't the top cause of death in hospices/of patients under hospital care, hospices were a leader in providing palliative (i.e., pain-relieving as opposed to curative) care for people with HIV/AIDS.

Here at Equality NC, I've interacted with many people who are HIV+ or who have AIDS. We've partnered with the Alliance of AIDS Services - Carolinas on many projects. (Also, I love AASC's Drag Bingo -- that is always extremely fun and entertaining, and it's always attended by a diversity of people, young and old, families with kids, college students.)

Last year, one of the guys on my rugby team was hospitalized for a life-threatening infection and ended up discovering he was HIV+.

HIV/AIDS is everywhere, and anything we do will make a difference.Certainly the least I can do is pay a token fee for a license plate. I hope you'll consider that, too -- click here to download the application.

-Ian Palmquist

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Elephant in Our Room

There's been a lot of coverage in the LGBT press recently about cutbacks at organizations working for our rights. There's no denying it's scary. There's no denying we've had some worrying moments.

Here at Equality North Carolina, we've been holding our own and created a conservative budget for the coming year. It means we have to wait to create and fill staff positions in the areas of policy and communications. It means the four of us on staff will need to be a bit more creative and stay focused on our priorities: getting our anti-bullying bill passed, holding back a constitutional amendment against marriage equality for the sixth year in a row, showing our power and dignity through Lobby Day on March 24, putting on an even bigger and better Equality Conference & Gala to re-inspire activism next year, making sure everyone feels valued within our glorious statewide movement.

We're ready and we know why. It's because we're fortunate and truly honored to represent the needs of extraordinary people all across our state. People like all of the college and high school students who attended the Equality Conference & Gala this year, or all of the energized young folks who gathered at Prop 8 rallies held across the state. We salute the people involved with local AIDS groups; local PFLAGs; pro-equality churches, campuses, and nonprofits; pro-equality blogs, websites, and publications; and NC Pride and all the local Pride events we attended this year.

We salute our friends at Replacements, Ltd., Food Lion, Haas McNeil & Associates, PA, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, IBM, GlaxoSmithKline, and all the other pro-equality companies that so generously sponsored this year's Equality Conference & Gala in the face of an economic meltdown. We salute the 88 individuals who made gifts or pledges at the gala in response to a matching challenge from Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation--the challenge was to raise $5,000 and we raised almost $14,000 in amounts ranging from $5 to $1,200.

We salute our board members, interns, and volunteers who all stepped up this year to help us raise needed money and inspire needed activists. We hosted 750 people at five special events across the state this year. Just think of the ripple effects. Just think of the future. With friends like ours--with the sheer amazing variety of people who have joined us--we're ready. Most of all, we're grateful.

--Kay Flaminio

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

What Now?

Over the weekend, I was talking with a few folks about the recent election. (Surprise, surprise!) One of the guys I spoke with was particularly disheartened by the number of antigay initiatives that passed in other states. He wondered, “What's next? Where do we go from here?”

Well, first, we celebrate. Sure, there may have been some setbacks across the country, but here in North Carolina we have every right to be optimistic. Not only did a slew of LGBT-positive candidates get elected, but several antigay candidates and officials in the state lost.

We can go into next year knowing we have more allies in place and expect a more moderate, perhaps even progressive statewide government. This is particularly good news for our big antibullying initiative.

All of ENC PAC's Senate candidates won, including the embattled and openly-gay Senator Julia Boseman. Most of the endorsed representatives and judges were selected, and LGBT allies made some amazing advancements in the executive branch.

Even at the national level, a number of noteworthy homophobes are now out, and Barack Obama is the most pro-equality president ever elected. His message of inclusivity and equality bodes well for us all.

Of course, after celebrating we should also mourn. The loss of marriage equality in California was particularly bittersweet, as were the antigay state constitutional amendments passed in Florida, Arizona, and Arkansas.

Here in North Carolina, I was particularly saddened at Judge John Arrowood's loss – he was the first openly-gay judge at the state level in our judiciary. Having an out person in such a prestigious position was a great boon for our community, and John's loss diminishes the visibility of gay folks in the state.

Finally, though, we plan our future moves and start back working again. Every civil rights battle is filled with two steps forward and one step back (and we should all be glad we got that instead of the converse of one step forward and two steps back, which also tends to happen).

Every loss is an opportunity for more discussion. The more visibility our issues have and the more dialog we generate, the better we'll all be.

We have some great chances now to develop coalitions with our allies and teach people how gay issues are essentially issues of fairness, which affect everyone. If everyone's not equal then no one is equal.

Where do we go from here? Simple: We go forward.

-Shawn Long

Monday, December 8, 2008

I Have Seen the Future...

Around this time last year, there was a blog meme going around called "pretend to be a time-traveler." I haven't seen anything similar this year, but it made me think of a few times in the past when something happened on TV that made me think "I see the future of the gay community."

Back in the late 80s, there was a pretty good sci-fi TV show called "Alien Nation" (based on a pretty bad sci-fi movie of the same name). The series was about a group of aliens, called Newcomers, that came to Earth and were trying to incorporate themselves into human communities.

In one brief throwaway scene on one episode, a group of these Newcomers couples were getting married. The futuristic bit? One of the couples was two guys. It was the smallest thing, but it made quite an impression on my teen-age self.

Science-fiction often offers glimpses into a future where oppressed groups have achieved some kind of equity. The sci-fi TV series "Babylon 5" from the mid-90s had two of the main male characters go undercover as newlyweds. In the Babylon 5 universe, sexual orientation is an unremarkable quality, like a person's handedness.

Fantasy TV also has a history of gay-friendliness, ranging from the lesbian overtones of "Xena" in the 90s to the explicit lesbian love on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" in the early 2000s.

Buffy was particularly remarkable in how it developed its gay love story over a period of time, with one of the main characters, Willow, slowly coming out to herself as she fell in love with her friend, Tara, after previously having shown an interest in one of the male leads.

The series was also notable in how it pushed the envelope on how explicitly same-sex relationships were shown on television. Initially the network wouldn't even show two girls kissing, but by the end of the series, it regularly showed woman kissing and sleeping together.

Sometimes television can set the tone for our society, but more often it simply reflects changes that are already coming. Gay marriage is quite simply and clearly the future.

After all, TV says so.

-Shawn Long

Monday, December 1, 2008

Family of Choice

The LGBT community has been fortunate in its adoption of the idea of creating one's own family of choice.

The concept is that we create our own families, i.e., we form them from people we care about, regardless of whether they are biologically or legally connected or not. They are the family we choose for ourselves.

I was reminded of the importance of that this past Thanksgiving.

The ENC staff spent its time with various members of our biological/in-law families. My partner, kid, and I were with my partner's parents in Garner. Ian time-shared his holiday with his family and his partner's family. Kay traveled to New York to be with her parents. Rebecca spent the holidays with her husband's parents.

On Saturday, Craig and I reinstated a tradition we call our "Friends Thanksgiving," where we invite friends to come over. One of my best friends (who I consider my non-bio brother) brought his new boyfriend.

While we were all talking about what we actually did on Thanksgiving, it turned out that this new guy had spent his Thursday alone. His family lives up in Pennsylvania, and since he is estranged from his mother, he basically never gets to see them.

This struck me as incredibly sad. In fact, it's almost tragic. How pointedly lonely to spend a holiday based on fellowship solo.

It's terribly how homophobia and discrimination have isolated so many people in the gay community, whether it be because their family rejects them for being gay, they lose their job for being HIV-positive, or their church deserts them for being an abomination.

I'll certainly be going out of my way to include this new guy in future events. It's trite to say, but truly, love is what life is about, whether that love be philia or agape (or yes, perhaps even eros).

Being able to share affection with someone else, and in turn choosing to spend time and special occasions with them, is the surest positive affirmation of life we can make.

Let us all make the choice to include people in our lives who we care about, or simply like or are fond of, whenever we can. It's the simplest message, but also the most basic, primal, and necessary one.

What is more quintessentially human than our capacity for love?

-Shawn Long

North Carolinian Led Fight for Marriage Equality in Connecticut

I'm so proud to see a fellow North Carolinian getting well-deserved attention for her work on marriage equality. Anne Stanback, who hails from Elizabeth Dole's hometown of Salisbury, has led Love Makes a Family's marriage campaign in Connecticut for nearly a decade.

Check out this great profile of Anne and her work in Hartford Courant:

Kudos to Anne for here amazing work and dedication, which are an inspiration for those of us here in her home state and around the country.

We're proud to count Anne and several members of her family as dedicated supporters of Equality North Carolina.

Working for Change

[by Ashley Clingman, ENC Intern] I have been fortunate to work with Equality over the past semester as a student intern. As a law student I have become increasingly concerned and interested in the legal issues facing the LGBT community. From my school experience and my work with Equality, I have come to believe that the legal issues facing the LGBT community are of the most important, because these issues touch on both political and legal areas of our society.

Because work within the political arena can be slow and frustrating, we must always try to think of new and creative ways to work for change. Politicians tend to be so afraid of change, when really they should be afraid of what happens when we stop allowing our legal system to evolve with the growing demands of society.

I think we should all be striving for change on a daily basis. This is one of the reasons I am proud to be a part of Equality. Everyone involved with Equality understands and vigorously works toward making North Carolina an LGBT-friendly state.

My part in creating change this semester was done by researching the North Carolina Administrative code. The NC Administrative Code is a compilation of the administrative rules of approximately 26 state agencies and 50 plus occupational licensing boards.

These rules mandate how each of these state agencies must regulate the operations of their departments and establish policies that determine how governmental agencies treat people, define rule language, budget money, set up employee expectations, and determine non-discrimination policies.

The goal of my research has been to identify areas of the law that need to be changed in order to promote equal protection for the LGBT community. Once there has been identification of where and how discrimination is occurring, the next step will be to create the necessary changes to stop the inequality.

Change is not quick or easy. We all can do our part in the fight for LGBT equality. Being a part of Equality and working directly at this year’s conference reminded me why it is so important to continually ask questions, identify problems, and work for change. If we challenge the status quo, solutions are possible. There are a lot of people working hard for change (ex. elected officials, lobbyist, volunteers, and student interns), and I am proud to be a part of the diverse crowd who is striving to create equality and positive change with North Carolina.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Upside of 8

Prop 8 (and the other antigay initiatives that passed in the election) were horrible, of course, but there are some good things that have come out of all the hullabaloo.

Wedding Rings

The first thing is that we actually had hullabaloo. We've had protests, locally and nationally. This surge of antigay legislation seems to have catalyzed some previously torpid activism.

We had several protests here in North Carolina, including ones in Asheville, Charlotte, Raleigh, and Wilmington. The current LGBT movement hasn't been nearly as energized as it was earlier in the heyday of gay days (think Stonewall and ACT UP), and maybe, hopefully, we seeing a new generation of activism begin.

Now that the protesting has passed, though, it's important that we keep the momentum going. A rally shouldn't be the end. Instead, it should be the beginning. You don't take to the streets and then settle back down in your living room – you take that indignation and anger and energy and transform them into action. You activate. You bring it forward into ongoing action and lobbying and education.

The public response and outcry has brought a lot of attention to the inequities the LGBT community faces, as well as the discrimination. It easier to ignore unfairness when it's not being talked about by every major media outlook. The more marriage is talked about, the more obvious the disparities in rights become.

In addition to creating some positive conversations for the gay community, the publicity has also brought some negative attention to some of our opposition groups. When a church uses its money to fight gay marriage instead of feeding the hungry and clothing the poor, people begin to question how charitable and non-political it is. Casting a ballot takes on the appearance of casting a stone.

And finally, there were some great (tongue-in-cheek) protest slogans by gay protesters:

  • “Do you really want me to marry your daughter?”
  • “More gay marriage means less gay sex. Isn't that what you want?”
  • “My gay friends deserve to be unhappy too!”

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Random Thoughts on the Conference

Equality NC Foundation's second annual Equality Conference and Gala convened this past Saturday at Duke, and it was a resounding success. We got great reviews on the evaluations, many people told us directly that they were very happy with the program, we had good numbers at both the conference and gala despite the collapsing economy, and we raised thirteen thousand dollars(!) for our educational efforts. It took a lot of time and energy and the efforts of a bunch of people, but it was all worth it. Now that we're in the aftermath, I've had a few random thoughts and observations:

  • We had a great number of students and transfolks in attendance. These were two audiences we'd been wanting to cultivate since last year, and it's great to see that we did. I understand the trans summit from Sunday also was well-attended and well-received.
  • The food this year was great. I mean, Cafe Parizade did a super job last year and I thought the food was good, but this year it was simply delicious.
  • I had never actually been in a gender-neutral bathroom that was being used by multiple genders before. It was cool, and the best part was I didn't even think about it until after the fact.
  • ENC has great interns. They were intrinsic and invaluable parts of the conference and gala this year, and several people specifically commented on them. (I also learned one of them is straight and two of them are Jewish. ENC is even more diverse that I initially thought!)
  • ENC has great staff. Rebecca is the quintessential community organizer, being dynamic and engaging even while fighting off a cold. Ian is smart and visionary, always thinking ahead and strategizing ways to advance the movement forward, always presenting his case in a calm and cogent manner. Kay throws herself heart and soul into her work, pulling off feat after feat of fundraising and programming.
  • ENC has great supporters. I've helped behind the scenes of many, many conferences, and the folks who come to ours are easily the most enthusiastic, friendly, and easy to work with. It's our community that drives the movement, and our community is simply amazing.

We were fortunate to have had so many great people at our conference, both attending and presenting. Given how well things went this year, it's exciting to think what the next year will bring.

-T. Shawn Long

Monday, November 3, 2008

Supreme Education - Teaching Reality

Back in early October, there were two cases that the US Supreme Court ruled on that were significant to – and positive for – LGBT families. Odds are that you never heard anything about either of them.

blackboard graphic

Both of these were instances where the court declined to examine a ruling, i.e., they let stand a lower court ruling. By doing so, even though the Supreme Court did not issue a decision based on the merits of the cases, they tacitly affirmed the lower court's decisions.

Both of the initial cases came from Massachusetts, where same-sex marriage is legal, and both dealt with a family objecting to their kid being taught something about gay families.

One family objected to their child reading books in kindergarten and first-grade that included diverse families, including families with same-sex parents. Another family didn't want their son's second-grade teacher reading the class a book that celebrated a gay marriage.

Both families made their objections based on religious grounds.

Both families lost their cases locally, and each time the statewide rulings had a good quote from the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston. Regarding the case on diverse families, the court said “There is no free exercise right to be free from any reference in public elementary schools to the existence of families in which the parents are of different gender combinations.”

In the gay marriage case, the court said, “Public schools are not obliged to shield individual students from ideas which potentially are religiously offensive, particularly when the school imposes no requirement that the student agree with or affirm those ideas,”

The US Supreme Court declined to hear the cases without comment.

These were good legal decisions, albeit pretty obvious ones. The idea that someone can use their religion to opt out of their children being taught something is pretty crazy and unbelievably burdensome, as well as counter to the entire concept of education. (Just imagine the patchwork of teachings we’d have if teachers had to individualize their lesson-plans to censor out bits to each student. Madness!)

The simple truth is that our families (gay families) exist, and while opposition groups might want to deny our existence, they can't, or at least they can't in the school systems. And the natural anodyne to ignorance is education – the more people who learn about our families and how normal we are, the less they fear us as 'unknown' and the less they see us as 'other.'

These rulings set a good precedent, and it's always nice to hear something positive come out of our liberal/conservative split Supreme Court. Decisions like this circumscribe our rights and legal status, and every affirmation is a step forward for us. It’s also good for us, as gay families, to know about things like this, so that we can better advocate for ourselves and educate others on our issues.

-T. Shawn Long

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Connecting the Dots

I had the opportunity earlier this month to co-present a workshop on sexual and reproductive rights at the Choice USA ( Reproductive Justice Leadership Institute in Chapel Hill.

Connect The Dots

Choice USA celebrates its 16th anniversary this year, and exists to mobilize, support and train young pro-choice leaders. They do a fantastic job of it, too! (That’s my obligatory shout-out as an Institute alumnus.)

Beyond the training aspect, what really stands out about Choice USA to me is their interest in “connect the dots” between sexual and reproductive rights issues. Some organizations, like Choice USA, are now using the term “reproductive justice” rather than “reproductive rights” to encompass a wider range of issues—including LGBT rights.

I worked with the super Lonna Hays from Ipas on the workshop, using a nifty mapping tool that Ipas, SisterSong, and the Task Force collaboratively created that tracks the status of reproductive justice across the US.

The joint project is called Mapping our Rights and can be found here: (It’s in the process of being updated, but still provides hours of click-and-learn fun.)

As they put it, “Mapping Our Rights illustrates how different state policies affect who we can marry, when or whether we can have children, and if we have access to health care or social security benefits.”

Obviously, there is a great deal of issue overlap between LGBT and the pro-choice movement — and the map shows that beautifully. Advocating for comprehensive sexuality education is typically on the agenda of groups from both camps, as is legislation that protects sexual autonomy and that which increases access to non-judgmental health care.

We have similar roots in the eyes of judges, too, as the decisions of Roe v. Wade and Lawrence v. Texas both boil down to a right to privacy. And perhaps because of these roots, we’re also hated by all the same people! Check out the agenda of any anti-LGBT group and you’ll find a heaping portion of woman-hate and anti-choice rhetoric mixed in there, as well.

In addition to sharing issues, we also share humans! Just follow the trail of people who have worked for LGBT rights and reproductive rights to see the overlap. Joe Solmonese of HRC used to head up EMILY’s List, which works to elect pro-choice Democratic women. NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina recently gained Sean Kosofsky — formerly of the Triangle Foundation in Michigan — as its executive director. Our own Ian serves on the NARAL board of directors, and I come from a background reproductive rights work.

I’ve really enjoyed seeing the reproductive rights movement grow toward an overarching goal of reproductive justice. And it’s great to know that wherever I happen to be — at a rally with Planned Parenthood, at a PRIDE meeting or at the Choice USA training — I’m in great company.

-- Rebecca Mann, Community Organizer

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

An Ordinary Evening, Trunk-or-Treating

My little family (one same-sex male couple plus one 6-year-old son) went trunk-or-treating at the YMCA in Wake Forest on Saturday night.

pumpkin jack-o-lantern

Now, we're completely out to our neighborhood. Everyone knows we're a gay couple with a kid. (I mean, when you work for Equality NC, the gay civil rights nonprofit for the state, you're out!)

Trunk-or-treat is designed to be a fun, pre-Halloween activity where folks at the Y drive out to the parking lot, decorate their vehicles, and give out candy from the back of their cars and trucks to the hoards of costumed kids that other folks shepherd around.

Our kid was dressed up as a ghost. (This was good, since we discovered many flaws to the costume, like the eye holes didn't stay in place, he kept stepping on the sheet, and he couldn't hold his bag. Thanks to this test run, we'll now be ready for the real deal on Friday with costume version 2.0.)

We saw some of our neighbors, Kid's friends, and other children from his school. We talked and chatted and visited with teachers, the YMCA staff, and people from our church.

We walked through the inflatable haunted mansion and marveled at the tombstones. We looked at the shrieking, strobe-light-filled haunted schoolbus from afar but kept our distance.

So, what happened next? Was there some negative event, a taunt or shove, some shouted homophobic condemnation?

No, it was just a plain evening, full of candy and camraderie. And that's the point. We were just another family, struggling to keep their child from running around too wild, up-playing the fun and mystery, and trying to find the balance between safety and terror amidst the spooky decorations during the Halloween holiday.

Here at Equality NC, we're always talking about what we're working on, but at the most basic level, what we're actually aiming for is what we all have in our plainest human moments. We want nothing more than the most basic trappings of normalcy, being caught up in the moment and losing yourself as opposed to always worrying about your identity and the identities of those around you.

It's important that in the fight for fairness and equality, we don't become so focused on what we lack that we overlook what we have. It's the moments in the present that give us the strength and spirit to work towards a just future.

Happy Halloween!

-T. Shawn Long

Monday, October 20, 2008

Presidential POVs on LGBT Rights

As the statewide nonpartisan advocacy group for North Carolina, Equality NC does not take positions on federal issues or races. However, we have been getting a lot of questions about the main 2008 presidential candidates and their stances on issues that affect the gay community.

voting graphicHere are some comparisons between the positions of Barack Obama and John McCain on the broad topics that affect us.


Obama supports adoption by LGBT folks.

McCain opposes adoption of children by gay couples.


Obama supports ending employment discrimination against the LGBT community and supports ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act).

McCain opposes employment nondiscrimination for LGBT folks and opposes ENDA.

Hate Crimes

Obama supports hate-crime legislation that includes protections for LGBT people.

McCain opposes hate-crime legislation.


Obama supports the Ryan White CARE Act (the largest federal program for people living with HIV/AIDS) and supports comprehensive sex education aimed at preventing HIV/AIDS.

McCain supports abstinence-only education to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS (he voted to end funding for outreach specifically to the gay community) and does not support the Ryan White CARE Act.


Obama opposes same-sex marriage. He supports civil unions (with separate but equal rights) and opposes a federal anti-gay marriage amendment.

McCain opposes same-sex marriage. McCain says the issue should be left to the states and most recently opposed a federal anti-gay marriage amendment but supported a state one.

Military Service

Obama supports openly gay military and wants to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

McCain does not support gays and lesbians serving in the military and supports the military’s “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” policy.

-T. Shawn Long

Friday, October 17, 2008

How Low Can You Vote?

With North Carolina as a presidential swing state for the first time in a long, long time, we're getting a lot of attention from Barack Obama and John McCain. Of course that race deserves attention from all of us, but LGBT and Allied voters need to be paying attention all the way down the ballot.

There's no question that who is the next president, and who we elect to the U.S. Senate and House will mean real difference for the direction of our country. But state and local races are too often overlooked, and the candidates we elect have as much or even more impact on our lives.

No matter where you live in North Carolina, you can vote this year for Governor, Lt. Governor, the eight agency heads on the Council of State, a Supreme Court Justice, and six Court of Appeals Judges, not to mention your state Representative and Senator.

Before you vote, take a moment to educate yourself about the candidates for these offices and the local offices on the ballot in your area.

It's also important to remember a couple key things about the ballot. If you're planning to vote straight-ticket for the Democratic or Republican party, you must first separately vote for your Presidential choice, then vote straight ticket for the rest of the partisan offices. But you're not done! All Judicial races and some local offices are non-partisan, so you have go all the way down the ballot or flip it over and vote separately in those races. If you just check the straight ticket box, you won't have voted for President or Judges!

So how low can you vote this year?

-Ian Palmquist

Monday, October 13, 2008

Your State, Your Rights - Vote!

Elections are getting quite a bit of press this year, and I know here in the ENC office we feel this election is extremely important for the LGBT community.

voting graphic

I’ve heard more people talking about this election than the one we had four years ago, and that one generated a ton of discussion. I’m sensing a lot less division amongst the public in general, though, and I’m surprised and pleased at the attention North Carolina is now getting as a swing state. It’s thrilling to listen to BBC radio and have them cut to interviews in Durham, NC.

People still have differences of opinion, obviously, but somehow the disagreements don’t seem quite as vociferous. People, in general, seem to feel that it’s time for a change. (Are you better off today than you were four/six/eight years ago? Vote accordingly!)

Though the national campaigns in general, and the presidential one in particular, tend to get all of the press, people need to remember that it’s the local elections and local races that have the most direct affect on our day-to-day lives.

For example, Equality NC has made a lot of progress for gay folks in the NC legislature in the past few years, but an antigay governor would basically stop and potentially undo the progress we’ve made.

Similarly, North Carolina has its first openly gay statewide judge running as an incumbent in the appeals court. His presence as an out official sends a powerful message to the legislature when they’re considering issues that affect the LGBT community, and losing him would make it easier for legislators to ignore our issues and our community’s voice.

[You can find a list of openly gay officials on the ENC website at Please let us know of any additions or corrections.]

Along with discussion about the election, however, I’ve also seen and heard a lot of misinformation.

The New York Times ran an article alleging voter registration irregularities in North Carolina, which the state board of election rebuts in this PDF press release. I had a friend of mine talk about hearing that early votes were only counted in the event of a tie, which is totally untrue.

We’re just a few days away from the start of early voting, and it behooves everyone to understand their voting rights and responsibilities.

You can find all the information you need to register, confirm your registration, find your polling place, find out who can vote, and find answers to common questions at the NC State Board of Elections website.

What will be this year’s election results? It’s our decision, each one of us, and only time will tell ….

-T. Shawn Long

Connecticut Supreme Court Recognizes Right to Marry

Today the Connecticut Supreme Court released a 4-3 decision in Kerrigan v. Commissioner of Public Health, finding that civil unions are not equal to marriage and extending access to marriage to same-sex couples.

Importantly, the decision also found that discrimination based on sexual orientation requires heightened scrutiny akin to discrimination based on sex under the state constitution.

Read the complete decision (PDF).

-Ian Palmquist

Thursday, October 9, 2008

We're All Members

I'm sometimes asked why we no longer ask people to make a minimum donation to become members of Equality North Carolina. The simple answer is that we don't want to turn anyone away from our vital cause. We consider each and every one of our supporters to be valued members of our great statewide LGBT equality community. We don't think someone should get to be called a member just because he or she is a donor.

First of all, there's the very practical problem of determining that minimum donation amount. The standard amount is usually $35 or sometimes $50, but we have lots of folks who can only give $25 or even $10--should they be denied membership because they can't give more?

And what about all the folks who can only volunteer? Isn't their time also money? Certainly our interns and other volunteers help us stretch our budget, and there's no denying the power of our online activists when they generate tens of thousands of emails and phone calls to legislators. It's because of them that our voice is heard in the halls of the North Carolina General Assembly.

As soon as you set a dollar amount for membership, you're automatically denying a voice to people who can't make the minimum donation, or to people who can only volunteer time. Plus you're getting into territory where endless hairs can be split. If only our donors could be called members, then we'd have 1,000 members. If both our donors and volunteers are members, then we have 12,000 members. And if all these folks bring us new friends because we respect everyone equally regardless of ability to pay, then our membership is probably more like 50,000.

We are a community rather than a membership organization. In a community, everyone is a member because everyone brings something valuable to the table. Some of us are fortunate enough to be able to make donations and receive donor benefits as opposed to member benefits, but this doesn't make us better. On the contrary, I'd argue that part of the reason we give is to help make it possible for all voices to be heard in our glorious movement. I know it's one of the reasons I give.

-Kay Flaminio

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

What About the Children?

A great deal of attention has been placed on the recent constitutional marriage amendments in California, Arizona, and Florida. And the losses of all three certainly do represent an enormous setback to the rights of LGBT individuals. Seemingly lost in the shuffle of these amendments, however, was Initiative 1 in Arkansas. This constitutional amendment proposed making it illegal for anyone cohabitating outside of a valid marriage to adopt or provide foster care to minors. Sadly, the amendment passed by a wide margin of 14 points.


There are many ramifications from the passage of this amendment. Obviously, it will prevent any same-sex couples from adopting or providing foster care. Outside of the LGBT movement, however, it also prevents any unmarried heterosexual couples from adopting or providing foster care.

It is unsettling, to say the least, that the population of Arkansas has taken it upon themselves to decide, based solely on demographic information, who is worthy to care for a child.

Even more disturbing, however, is the fact that this amendment deprives myriad children from having stable, loving homes with same-sex or unmarried heterosexual couples. It is estimated that, at any given time, there are 3700 children in the foster system. Do the residents of Arkansas truly believe that these children are better off staying in the foster care system?

Countless research has shown that children who are in and remain in the foster care system are more at risk for dropping out of school, becoming substance abusers, and aging out into dire situations, including homelessness.

In August, Arkansas’ Department of Human Services was forced to investigate the deaths of four children in foster care homes. In light of these recent events, it’s troubling that Arkansas would move away from providing children in foster care with stable and loving foster and adoptive parents, simply based on demographics.

While the passage of this amendment may have occurred outside of the national spotlight, the plight of the children in the Arkansas foster care system, as well as the repercussions of this amendment for the LGBT movement, must be moved into the forefront.

-- Seth Maid and Nicole Stonestreet, ENC Interns

Monday, October 6, 2008

October is LGBT History Month

This month we celebrate as a nation the contributions gay folks have made throughout history. Take a look at this year's honorees ....

LGBT history month icon

In case you haven't heard, October is GLBT History Month.

Like Black History Month in February and Women's History Month in March, the purpose of GLBT History Month is to celebrate and highlight the achievements of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals in history. Hopping on the bandwagon of these other subcultural history months, this month helps to increase awareness of and education on LGBT folks who have influenced our culture and affected our world. Gay folks still tend to be omitted when it comes to popular, public history, and this month tries to correct that oversight and fill the void.

This month was established back in the 1990s, and October was selected since this is when National Coming Out Day occurs. GLBT History Month is supported by the usual suspects of national gay groups, i.e, HRC, GLAAD, and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, but back in 1995 it also got the support of the National Education Association (NEA), giving it good mainstream credibility.

Go to for more details – every day of the month will feature a single LGBT person with a video, pictures, bio, bibliographies, and other resources.

[As a sidenote on style, while the official designation of the month is “GLBT,” Equality NC uses “LGBT” as the inclusive acronym for our community.]

Here are the LGBT icons who have been featured the first week of GLBT History Month:

1. Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon -- Gay rights advocates, longtime partners, and the first couple legally married in California. Martin died this past August.

2. Stephen Sondheim – Multiple (Tony, Oscar, and Pulitzer) prize-winning composer and lyricist.

3. Gianni Versace – World-renown fashion designer.

4. Sheila Kuehl -- The first openly-gay person elected to the California legislature. She played Zelda in the old TV sitcom The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis.

5. Tennessee Williams – Playwright and author of such works as Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and A Streetcar Named Desire.

6. Alice Walker – Pulitzer-prize winning writer (won for The Color Purple).

7. Greg Louganis – HIV+ diver who won a gold medal in the 1984 Olympics.

-T. Shawn Long

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Eyes on Allies

LGBT equality ... from the straight perspective.

“And thanks to our brand-new community organizer, Rebecca (our token straight employee – look, we embrace diversity!), we were there.”

This line is from our first ENCspot blog entry a few weeks ago, and is about me [Rebecca Mann, ENC community organizer]. I’ll have to admit that although I think it’s endearing, I was still a little cringe-y after reading it. It made me think of how being an ally sometimes means walking a fine line between being true to who you are, but not appearing to define yourself as “not gay.”

Soon after I began working for ENC, I ran into a supporter who was concerned about an ENC volunteer who, while leading a presentation, mentioned numerous times that she is straight.

The supporter and others in attendance believed that by talking about her own sexual orientation during the presentation, the volunteer was trying to distance herself from the LGBT folks in the crowd. I wasn’t there, so I don’t know how the topic came up in the first place. But it immediately made me think of similar situations in which I’ve outed myself as straight. … and the times I haven’t and have found myself in LGBT-only conversations, feeling like I’ve invaded “safe spaces.”

So what’s an ally to do? Especially one whose job is to talk with others about LGBT rights?

My philosophy is that it is important to use the privileges we have to try and make the world better for others. And, it’s imperative to recognize that those of us with privilege are the ones traditionally mucking things up for those without it, and therefore we should be the ones working hardest for equality.

To this end, I think men should be flocking to anti-rape rallies, white folks to anti-racism programs, and gentiles to the Anti-Defamation League. (That’s a full plate for you, straight, white, Christian males.)

Likewise, straight people should be doing all we can to ensure LGBT rights. And I think there’s power in proudly doing this work as an “out” ally.

-Rebecca Mann

Monday, September 29, 2008

Pride and Prejudice

Protesters mark another successful NC Pride celebration in Durham.

2008 NC Pride logo

We had another successful NC Pride this past Saturday at Duke Campus in Durham.

Despite fears of storms and winds from a tropical storm earlier in the week, it was mostly sunny with some welcome clouds, comfortably temperate though occasionally verging on warm, and without a bit of rain. Thousands of people came out, including a ton of families with kids.

Apparently there were also some protesters. I, however, neither saw nor heard them. (In fairness, I did not get to march in the parade.)

I know the Pride folks were aware of the protesters – or at least the possibility of them – from the get-go. When I got there at all-too-early-AM to help set-up a couple of booths (and who knew so many gay people could be up and about so soon in the day!), I asked about parking. One of the volunteers told me, “Honey, park right across the street over there. That’s normally where the protesters line up, but this year we thought we’d make them go farther away by using it as parking.” As far as I can tell, that worked well.

I always dislike it when the protesters come. ENC generally pushes for non-engagement when we encounter them, which I think is the best way to go. Honestly, when is there ever a productive dialogue with protesters?

[As a related sidenote, here’s an article on an interesting study: “There's No Arguing With Conservatives ... No, Seriously, Scientific Studies Prove It.”

This was just recently released from Yale, and one of the main researchers is a Ph.D. student at Duke.]

I don’t like having them around simply because I find them so mean-spirited. Now that my partner and I have our 6-year-old kid, I find it particularly problematic considering some of the things they say around him. (Sure, we can’t insulate him from reality, but come on, he’s just a child – let him have his childhood innocence!)

I console myself with this thought: For several years Pride did not have protesters, and now suddenly they’re popping up again. This is a great sign of change, progress, and societal development.

Any time you have a conflict of elements (like fire encountering water), you tend to have a dramatic superficial reaction (boiling) as the elements change states (water to steam).

I like to view the protesters as the boiling water – as we move closer to fairness for LGBT folks, there’ll be more of an obvious reaction, but soon we’ll all get to enjoy a new state.

And it’s going to be a state of equality.

-T. Shawn Long

Monday, September 22, 2008

More on Marriage

A few decades ago, the idea of same-sex marriage would've been unbelievable, but now it's becoming common.

Wedding Rings

Marriage seems to be cropping up a lot lately.

Massachusetts has celebrated yet another anniversary for its legally married same-sex couples, and its non-residency ban has just been lifted.

We’ve got the exciting onset of marriage equality in California, as well as the predictable backlash of a ballot measure to end it.

We’ve had some pretty big celebrity involvement, including the marriage of Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi, the wedding of George “Mr. Sulu” Takei and Brad Altman, and Brad “Mr. Jolie” Pitt’s donation of $100,000 to support gay marriage.

Equality NC has recently received numerous requests from people who’ve been legally married in California or Massachusetts, asking about filing lawsuits to get their marriage recognized in North Carolina.

(Please note: ENC is unable to provide any legal advice directly but would instead refer folks to:

* North Carolina Gay Advocacy Legal Alliance (NC GALA)

* Lambda Legal

Several national groups have advised against marriage lawsuits – you can find more information here: )

Equality NC has begun our own project, Get Married For Equality. We encourage all LGBT and allied couples to celebrate their unions with us – marriage, civil union, or commitment ceremony, legally recognized or not – by registering on our website. You can find more information at:

Marriage is a huge symbol, and marriage equality is a bellwether of social change. We’re living in an exciting time in that we can actually see the arc of history as momentum for marriage equality builds.

Today in North Carolina we're still working on holding back an amendment to the state Constitution, but tomorrow ....

-T. Shawn Long

Friday, September 19, 2008

What Do Ballot Fights in California, Florida, and Arizona Mean for NC?

As I talk to colleagues in other states I know how fortunate we are here in North Carolina to have kept anti-gay measures off the ballot. This year California faces a ballot measure to end marriage equality in that state, while Florida and Arizona voters will consider adding "preemptive" marriage bans to their constitutions.

While Equality NC has successfully blocked similar efforts in our legislature, these fights in other states have an impact here as well.

Florida has a real chance at defeating the amendment. It takes 60% to amend their consitution and the polls have it too close to call. Wouldn't it send a great signal to have voters in a state like Florida reject bigotry and discrimination?

In 2006 Arizona became the first state to defeat an anti-LGBT constitutional amendment. That year the proposed amendment banned marriage and domestic partnership. Now the right wing has come back and is trying again, but this time they're only going after marriage. Arizona's got a tough fight on their hands, but they've shown before they can do the unexpected.

Finally, California. The vote on California's ballot measure is second only to the presidential race in importance to our community nationally. The largest state, California has long been a legal and social trend-setter, and with Massachusetts, leads the way on the road to marriage equality. Thousands of same-sex couples have married there since June. If California voters pass the proposed amendment banning same-sex marriage, it will set the national freedom to marry movement back a decade or more.

In North Carolina we're justifiably proud of our work to hold back attacks on our families. But our work doesn't happen in a vacuum. We honor the great efforts of our fellow Equality Federation members in these three states to defeat these measures and make their states, and ours, better in the process.

For more information on each of these important campaigns, visit the Equality Federation's ballot measure site.

-Ian Palmquist

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Letter to the Editor in The Pilot

One of ENC's lead volunteers, Michael Edwards, explains the great cost of an anti-gay marriage amendment in The Pilot newspaper, covering the Southern Pines area.

A wonderful letter to the editor was published in today’s edition (September 17) of The Pilot which covers Southern Pines and the Moore County area of North Carolina.

ENC volunteer Michael Edwards of Pinehurst explains the multi-million dollar cost to taxpayers of putting such a useless amendment on the ballot, and cuts to the heart of true threats to any marriage or relationship.

Michael's letter reminds us of ENC member Lorraine Johnson's call to action from our 2006 Lobby Day. Read Michael’s letter here:

Monday, September 15, 2008

"So the Indigo Girls called on Friday..."

Welcome to Equality NC's new blog. Read a bit about our hanging out with the Indigo Girls this weekend.

Indigo Girls album cover

Hi, this is Shawn, and I'd like to welcome you to Equality NC's brand-new blog.

I like to call it ENCspot, i.e., 'inkspot,' but mainly I hope other folks will call it interesting, informative, and entertaining, or at least distracting. We'll be posting at least twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays, to let folks know about things that we're working on, thinking about, discussing, or simply find noteworthy.

Our website’s front page will still be your source for key news from Equality NC. The blog is our way of bringing you behind the scenes of our work. You’ll be hearing from me and the rest of our staff plus occasional special guests.

When I mentioned I was writing the first inaugural blog for my work to a friend of mine, he jokingly asked what kind of augury I planned to use. (He hoped for haruspicy, which is divining the future by reading animal entrails – he voted specifically for sheep.)

While I cannot absolutely predict the future of Equality NC, I can tell you something about how we're doing right at this moment by a single thing that happened last week.

Late on Friday afternoon, I got a call from the Indigo Girls. Yes, those Indigo Girls: Amy and Emily, long-time lesbian icons of the folk scene and gay rights and eco/animal activists, singers of hits like “Closer to Fine” and more recently, “Dear Mr. President” (with Pink).

All right, actually it was their agent calling for them, but the basic idea is the same. ENC was specifically invited to set up at their concert in Charlotte this past Sunday. Their agent said they were familiar with the great work Equality NC has done and its involvement at the national level with the Equality Federation. She said we'd be a good group and source of local information to have at their concert.

Consider that. The Indigo Girls, folk rock superstars for almost two decades, called us directly to participate in their event when they came into the state. We weren't just one of a bunch of groups that received a mass-mailed invitation to sign up – Equality NC, because of its work and reputation, at both the state and country level, was requested and contacted individually.

And thanks to our brand-new community organizer, Rebecca (our token straight employee – look, we embrace diversity!), we were there. More significantly, we were the only ones there besides the singers. It was the Indigo Girls, Missy Higgins (their opening act), and us. We weren’t on the stage, but we were the only other table there, right beside their agent and merchandise.

They also asked about the issues we were working on so they could plug them from on-stage. The Indigo Girls have been long-time gay rights activists, and it was thrilling that they came to us not just as a resource but in fact, as the resource in North Carolina.

Judging by that, I’d have to say we’re doing pretty well right now.

Your comments and suggestions for our blog are always welcome. We don't have comments currently enabled directly (due to the administrative burden of reviewing and moderating them and protecting our website content), but please do send them. You can e-mail

-T. Shawn Long