16 Inspirational Voices for LGBTQ Equality in 2016: North Carolina Advocates for Change

As 2016 comes to a close, there is no doubt that this year was difficult for many in the LGBTQ and allied community. After a year of such celebration and momentous progress in 2015, 2016 was a shocking wake-up call to many about the realities that LGBTQ people face. From the rise in anti-LGBTQ legislation to the horrific shooting at Pulse, from the incidents of anti-transgender violence to the election of a presidential ticket that threatened to undermine equality and justice, we know that our job is more important now than ever before.

However, through these difficult times, we witnessed countless moments of inspiration. Throughout the year, time and time again, we saw people stand up and do what was right. Whether they were celebrities, politicians, a friend or just an acquaintance, we saw people stand up for equality and inspire us all. Their stories made us cry, gave us hope and reminded us that love will conquer hate.

On March 23, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory signed HB2 – an outrageous and unprecedented anti-LGBTQ law. While the North Carolina House and Senate rammed through  the law in one day, backlash to the discriminatory measure continued for months, leading to McCrory’s defeat on Election Day.

With the legislation rammed through the legislature in a special, single day session with little opportunity for debate, transgender North Carolinians immediately took action against the hateful law.  Madeline Goss, Candis Cox and Tina Madison White spoke at rallys and events and testified against this dangerous law.

“I am thankful to be a part of the movement towards justice for all trans-people,” Goss told HRC. “We will overcome this, no matter what the odds, and the greater LGBTQ community has our back.”

Lennie Gerber and Pearl Berlin, a North Carolina couple together for a half century, also spoke out against HB2, urging voters to make their voices heard on Election Day.

“HB2 is totally unconstitutional,” Geber said in an HRC video. “It has cost us millions and millions of dollars. Every single vote counts and you can’t say ‘Well my vote doesn’t count.’ It does.”

It wasn’t just fair-minded North Carolinians from across the state who rallied against HB2. Big companies and big names publicly condemned McCrory and the North Carolina General Assembly for passing HB2, making it clear that discrimination is bad for business.

More than 200 major CEOs and business leaders, including many of North Carolina’s largest employers, signed an open letter calling for the full repeal of HB2. Major film studios and corporations, from PayPal to Deutsche Bank, stopped investments in the state because of HB2’s threat to employees and consumers.

While McCrory continued to stand by and defend the discriminatory law, artists including Beyoncé, Bruce Springsteen, Dead & Company, and Cyndi Lauper spoke out. Conventions withdrew from the state, taking substantial revenue with them.

On July 21, the NBA stood up to North Carolina lawmakers who refused to repeal HB2 by pulling its 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte. In September, the NCAA moved all 2016-2017 championship events out of the state due to HB2. Following the NCAA’s lead, the ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference) and the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) also moved its championship games to other states.

The outpouring of support for North Carolina’s LGBTQ community was simply inspirational. The overwhelming outcry from business leaders, celebrities, organizations and advocates made headlines across the nation and nation. These groups and individuals led by example, sending a clear message that hate and discrimination will not be tolerated. Their voices, spirit and dedication only made us stronger and for that, we can’t thank them enough. 

Follow along with HRC’s blog in the coming days as we recognize the people who inspired us and gave us hope, courage and strength in 2016.