Charlotte, here’s your chance

Editor's Note

by Matt Comer  Editor  editor@goqnotes.com
Published: November 14, 2009 in Editor's Note, Opinion

Almost a month before this year’s elections, my Editor’s Note column asked for two things: First, I implored our community members to get out and vote. Second, I demanded progressive, LGBT-inclusive action from the Charlotte City Council if Democrat Anthony Foxx was elected mayor.

In that column, I wrote: “Some Charlotte city leaders have suggested progress has been stalled under the threat of McCrory’s veto power. They say things will be different if Democrat Anthony Foxx is elected in November. That’s good information to have. Now we can demand: If Foxx is elected, Charlotte’s LGBT community expects action, not lip-service, no more than two months after Foxx becomes mayor.”

On Nov. 3, what might have been a dream became reality. Foxx was elected the city’s first Democratic mayor in almost a quarter century. The new city council is among the most LGBT-friendly Charlotte has ever seen.

I’ll be sticking by my two-month demand and I hope Charlotte city leaders and its LGBT and straight ally leadership step up and take action.

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On Dec. 7, Foxx and the new council will be sworn-in. That means he, and our new pro-LGBT majority on city council, will have until Feb. 7, 2010, to make good on the promises they’ve handed us for years.

Among the tasks to be completed are a fully-inclusive non-discrimination policy protecting city employees on the basis of sexual orientation and gender-identity and an extension of benefits to same-sex partners of city employees.

It wouldn’t hurt to also create a new mayoral task force on LGBT inclusion, appoint a few high profile and openly LGBT folks to city and mayoral commissions, issue a letter of support for the Human Rights Campaign Carolinas dinner in Raleigh and a welcome letter for this summer’s Pride Charlotte.

It’s an ambitious agenda, I know. And, maybe it can’t be completed in two-months’ time, but Charlotte’s new council and mayor can at least attempt to bridge these gaps. That’s really all I’m asking from them — show some real, concerted effort, instead of just talking about it.

But this is a two-way street, of course. If we expect Charlotte’s leadership to act on our behalf, then we will also have to undertake our own community-wide effort to make a change.

Individually and as groups, we’ll need to reach out to our elected officials: write them letters, send them emails, make appointments to sit down and chat with them in person and invite them to our community events.

Our community’s non-profits will have to urge their members to take a more active role in their local politics. Charlotte’s Lesbian & Gay Community Center will need to take a more public role in building, shaping and cultivating its community. Organizations serving large numbers of youth will need to encourage their members to register to vote. Charlotte’s MeckPAC will need to hold their endorsed candidates accountable, even if it means the threat of stripping away future endorsements for failure to act. In short, our community will have to come out of the closet in a public and politically-active way, in much the same way we did countering anti-gay threats in the early-to-mid 1990s.

After 14 years of Pat McCrory’s anti-LGBT veto threat, the Queen City enters into a new era of progressive leadership and a chance to finally include all citizens, regardless of sexual orientation and gender-identity, into the full life of our city. Once Charlotte makes these changes, it will be that much easier for Mecklenburg County to do so, as well.

Now is the time in which we have been handed the preciously rare chance to make pro-LGBT change in Charlotte. Let’s not waste it.