Though many people haven’t noticed it, what might be considered the most earth-shattering election moment for the LGBT community took place this year.
With all the doom and gloom and concerns for the American fabric of life, many aren’t aware we won a major victory for LGBT equality at the polls, which proved the strength of the LGBT vote and the success of our community’s ability to build coalitions.
It all took place in North Carolina. The state has been a bastion of the Republican Party since the 1960s, with the exception of 1976. Democrats have dreamed that, with the changing demographics of the state, the party might be able to capture it. It did so in 2008 when Barack Obama won the state by a mere 14,177 votes, but in 2012, after Obama publicly announced he supported marriage equality, North Carolina reverted to its Republican roots. Most pundits suggest it was that issue that changed the electorate back and secured a 92,000-vote victory for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
With the Republicans now once again in control of the entire state, the governor’s mansion and legislative houses went on a conservative legislative streak. What they didn’t count on was the city of Charlotte passing LGBT-rights legislation that gave some LGBT people protection from discrimination and attempted to deal with the issues facing trans people.
After Charlotte passed the legislation, Republican Gov. Pat McCrory started to call it the “bathroom bill” and asked the legislature to overturn it. It did and, in doing so, also stripped out even the nondiscrimination part of the legislation.
Charlotte, which has become a major banking and financial center as well as a haven for aviation and state business, was under attack by LGBT allies in business, entertainment and sports. The city began to lose concerts, businesses announced they would not increase or build in the state and several major sporting championships were moved to other states.
When HB2, the legislature’s restrictive answer to the pro-LGBT law, was challenged in court, North Carolina’s attorney general, Roy Cooper, refused to go to court on its behalf. He also became a candidate against sitting McCrory, the poster child of HB2, thereby setting the stage for the gubernatorial battle to be fought on this issue. The state at that point was hemorrhaging in lost revenue and growth in the amount of 100s of millions, and public opinion was against HB 2 for that reason. The race for governor was about one issue: HB2.
The point: While Hillary Clinton lost North Carolina to Republican Trump and the Republican candidate for U.S. senator in the state won, along with most other Republicans, one Democrat stood out: Roy Cooper.
Even though he is nearly 10,000 votes behind Cooper three weeks after the election, McCrory has refused to concede.
The local organizers, the trans community and its allies put together a get-out-the-vote campaign better than the presidential and senatorial campaigns. That is major progress and something that we can all look to as a blueprint for the future.
Congratulations North Carolina for giving us some hope in a gloomy election.