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