Hundreds of LGBT business owners gathered along with local and community leaders at the Down Town Club May 8 for the Independence Business Alliance’s Business Leader’s Luncheon, during which honoree Mitchell Gold warned of the current administration: “They’re trying to roll back our rights.”
IBA Executive Director Zach Wilcha and Amber Hikes, executive director of the city’s Office of LGBT Affairs, opened the event.
The 2018 IBA Influencer Award was presented to Mitchell Gold, cofounder and chairman of Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, a company specializing in home-furnishing manufacturing and retail based in Taylorsville, N.C., where Gold also lives.
In his acceptance speech, Gold got political: The chaos of President Donald Trump’s antics is distracting people from the retrograde policies Vice President Mike Pence, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and House and Human Services Secretary Ben Carson are quietly implementing, he said.
“Their agenda is to roll back our rights and they have been doing that. Make no mistake about it. Mike Pence has a bone to pick with transgender people and he’s the one who has been behind this whole transgender thing in the military. So if they can do it, why can’t we do it?
And I implore all of you to use any chance you get to stand up and use your positions in the community, with government officials or whoever, and especially with clergy, to talk with them,” added Gold. “We have to change things because it’s not fair that LGBT kids have to suffer the mental anguish and the high suicide rates.”
PGN asked Gold before he accepted his award why it was important for LGBT business owners to be based in states such as North Carolina and in small towns where people benefit from the jobs and income his business brings to the economy, but where they are also against equal rights and protections for LGBT individuals.
“It’s going backward, but it’s now going a little forward,” Gold said. “They’ve elected a Democrat, Roy Cooper, as governor. He’s extremely fair-minded on LGBT issues. His agenda is to move it forward. The state legislature is largely made up of evangelicals or caters to evangelicals that are anti-LGBT. I think it’s important that I stay in the community and I support LGBT issues because it provides leadership and a role model. The most important thing to me is that a 15-year-old kid in our community knows that somebody is standing up for them. There’s somebody who’s successful who doesn’t believe that they are a sinner or broken, who believes in their dignity and equality.”
A third of North Carolina’s population is progressive, Gold noted. “You have to take the time to educate people.”
Gold also addressed why being involved with organizations like the IBA is important for keeping LGBT business owners unified and focused on changing the way people think about LGBT rights.
“We have to stand up to religion-based bigotry,” he said. “That is what fuels legislation against us. It is not the only thing, but it is the number-one reason why we don’t have full legal and spiritual equality. We all have to stand up and fight that, and by fighting it I mean not by standing on a street corner screaming but by constantly educating people about the harm they are doing to innocent, vulnerable people. In my experience I have seen that most decent people, when they recognize that they are causing harm, they start to change their thinking.”
For more information on the Independence Business Alliance or Mitchell Gold, visit www.thinkiba.com or www.mgbwhome.com.