Peter St. Onge

The Charlotte Observer last week noted their slate of 36 different awards and honors from the N.C. Press Association. Among them was columnist Peter St. Onge, who was honored with awards for three columns on LGBT issues — two in the serious columns category and one in the lighter columns category.

The first serious column honor included one on his gay brother and his impending marriage in New York. A snippet:

This week, N.C. legislators dug in harder on keeping the wedding day away from gays, approving a constitutional amendment outlawing homosexual marriage that will go before voters next May. Our state already has a law against gay marriage, of course, but a consititutional amendment is harder to change than a simple law. Gay marriage opponents know it’s their best chance at defending an institution they believe is under attack.

That’s a word – attack – that sneaks often into this gay marriage debate. And also this word: agenda. It’s how those who fear homosexuality separate gays from the rest of us, by painting them as “others,” as an occupying force that wants to diminish the things we hold important.

St. Onge was also honored for his serious column on the Mecklenburg County Commission’s inadequate response to Commissioner Bill James’ “sexual predator” comments. The kicker:

What did politeness accomplish Tuesday night? We got a thoughtfully worded resolution that opposed, in principle, speech that could hurt others. We also saw several members of Charlotte’s gay community speak eloquently on the issue and remind everyone, with their presence, that there’s pain at the other end of the arrows people fling.

Lastly, St. Onge’s lighter column on Wells Fargo’s rainbow lights show on its Uptown Duke Energy Building on National Coming Out Day in October 2010 also received a nod. In it, St. Onge recounted Wells Fargo’s fumbling over questions about who requested and decided to “light the Southern city’s evening sky with a 48-story stamp of approval for a gay and lesbian event.”

Congratulations, Peter! And, thank you. Charlotte is much better place because of your outspokenness and word wizardry.

The Christian Action League, perhaps among one of the most far-right, anti-LGBT hate groups in North Carolina, posted yesterday an extraordinary insight into their religiously-bigoted efforts to write discrimination into our state constitution and further increase the hate-filled, divisive politics that has become the brand of modern-day right-wing ideologues.

The Rev. Rocky Carpenter, pastor of Harmony Community Church in Peachland, N.C., has started up a weekly prayer effort to guide Tar Heel bigots in their quest to constitutionalize discrimination against LGBT people in North Carolina. “Harmony,” it seems, is a state of being to which queer folk don’t get access.

From the Christian Action League:

“At the first Vote FOR Marriage NC meeting I went to, Tami Fitzgerald (Vote FOR Marriage NC chairwoman) asked for a prayer leader. God quickened my heart, and after praying for a week, I called her to let her know that I was the man to lead the prayer effort,” said the Rev. Carpenter. He said his beautiful wife of 27 years, four children and two grandchildren were also among the reasons he stepped up to the plate.

“We must preserve marriage God’s way,” he added. “God is calling his elect to boldly and lovingly stand for the preservation of marriage according to his word in this great state of North Carolina!”

He said to be victorious in this battle, Christians should “pray without ceasing” and “enlist as many as possible to pray.”

For that reason he is calling on pastors and their congregations to use their e-mail and social networking sites to spread the word about the importance of defending traditional marriage and the need to call on God for his help. He said it will take pastors to lead the charge, but that all believers should be joining in prayer since James 5:16 promises that “the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

The Rev. Carpenter is also designating Friday of each week as the Vote FOR Marriage NC corporate prayer day since the sixth day of the week corresponds to the sixth day of creation when, according to Gen. 1:26-28, God created man and woman.

According to the anti-gay activist group, Carpenter is asking folks to pray for three outcomes (again from Christian Action League):

  • “Pray for the salvation of our gay and lesbian neighbors (Isaiah 59:1,2),” he wrote, reminding recipients of the message that homosexuals are not the enemy (Ephesians 6:12).
  • He also asked for prayer for Vote FOR Marriage coalition leaders (1 Tim. 2:1,2), for workers (Matthew 9:37, 38), and for financial provision (2 Cor. 9:7).
  • Most of all, he challenged marriage supporters to pray that “God would be glorified in this effort! (Rev. 4:11)”

I hereby propose an alternative to Carpenter’s prayer Fridays: On Fridays through May 8, I hope you’ll join me for “Freaky Fanatic Friday” tweets, highlighting some of the insane and horrendously bigoted comments being made by anti-gay activists in North Carolina.

Some examples:

  •  Gay “have to wear a diaper or a butt plug just to be able to contain their bowels.” Patrick L. Wooden, Upper Room Church of God in Christ, Raleigh, N.C.
  • “I know of a case where in a hospital a homosexual male had a cellphone lodged in his anus and as they were operating on him the phone went off, the phone started ringing!” Patrick L. Wooden.
  • Gay sex “will most certainly mean the extinction of the human race.” Patrick L. Wooden.
  • Gay people are a “darkened, twisted, immense depository of depravity.” Rev. Ron Baity, Berean Baptist Church, Winston-Salem, N.C.
  • Loving, committed same-sex couples are “greatest threat to marriage and morality in this country.” N.C. Family Policy Council.
  • On the amendment: “It’s also to put a big letter of shame on the behavior. We don’t want them here. We don’t want them marrying. If you’re going to do it in San Francisco, it’s your own business.” Mecklenburg County Commissioner Bill James.
  • “The public in my opinion knows the difference between perversity and diversity.” Mecklenburg County Commissioner Bill James.
  • Homosexuality is “caused by something radically wrong with the human heart!” Rev. Mark Creech, Christian Action League.
  • Homosexuality is “unnatural,” “biologically destructive,” caused by “abuse or acquired taste.” N.C. Family Policy Council.
  • Durham lesbian blogger Pam Spaulding needs “man [to] rock her world, in the name of the Lord.” Patrick L. Wooden.

(Sources: Right-Wing Watch, New Civil Rights Movement, Good As You, Pam’s House Blend, News & Observer, )

 

Bill James

A Charlotte conservative is telling anti-gay Republican Mecklenburg County Commissioner Bill James it is time for him to go and for voters to support his Republican primary challenger, Ed Driggs.

Lewis Guignard writes at Pundit House, a conservative Charlotte news and commentary site, that James’ reckless focus on socially conservative issues has damaged James’ supposed focus on fiscally-conservative issues, as well as damaging the local Republican Party.

Guignard says:

In fact, one of the reasons for the demise of many fiscal conservatives on the board of commissioners in the late 1990′s were the social conservative issues that James brought to the fore. From this decline, the Republican Party in Mecklenburg County has never recovered and as long as people such as Bill James are in office it never will. In fact, one of the major problems of the Republican Party today is the catering to social conservatives. If there were no other reason, that alone would be an excellent one for Republicans to vote for Ed Driggs. But there are other reasons, some of which have already been delineated by Driggs on the campaign trail.

Guignard focuses a great deal of his commentary on James’ votes and stances on fiscal matters. It’s a shame Guignard didn’t spend a bit more time zeroing in on James’ horrendous record of bigotry and division, among them:

Obviously, the list above isn’t exhaustive. Certainly, it’s not even the tip of James’ bigoted iceberg. He’s been engaging in character assassination against entire communities of people — and not just LGBT folks — for decades, beginning in the mid-1990s with Charlotte’s “Angels in America” and arts-funding controversy (more background…).

Obviously, the “Big Tent” that is the Grand Old Party isn’t. People like James prevent that. People who vote for people like James prevent that. Speaking of which… I wonder if all those mega-churches and good Christian folk in southeast Mecklenburg County really approve of all James’ harshly-worded and vulgar comments? They must… they keep supporting him.

 

Today and Wednesday, the Democratic National Committee’s 2012 convention site selection committee will visit Charlotte. While here, they’ll take a look at several criteria: transportation, security, convention space, hotel capacity and more.

Charlotte leaders, including Mayor Anthony Foxx, have been working hard to woo the 2012 Democratic National Convention. Their website, Charlottein2012.com, outlines facts, figures and statistics on the Charlotte area, and they are working on compiling a resource list of all the great things to do and see in and around the Queen City.

The first “fact” in their Fact Sheet (PDF) states we are “an energetic, innovative, diverse city on the move,” yet this quick “fact” forgets about one key Democratic constituency that has often been ill-served and ignored by Charlotte’s Democratic leadership. Unfortunately, local and state leaders’ exhuberance over Charlotte’s possible hosting of the Democratic National Convention has overshadowed just how slow the area has been to making progressive change, particularly for LGBT citizens.

The Democratic National Convention stands to bring countless numbers of LGBT Americans to our city. It is an event for a political party whose ideals of equality and inclusion are rarely, if ever, taken to heart by our own local Democratic Party leaders.

At first glance, this lack of progress seems nothing but a negative stain on Charlotte but it doesn’t have to be. The Queen City has much more growing to do, and the Democratic National Convention’s presence here could help to highlight the many issues faced by our local LGBT community and push local leaders over whatever obstacles keep them from fully and publicly supporting LGBT people and citizens here.

So, here is my open letter to the DNC. I ask you to consider Charlotte carefully and provide a fair selection process to all potential host cities. But, in the end, I hope you do choose Charlotte.

Read on for an in-depth exploration of the state of LGBT Charlotte — both positive and negative — and how the convention could help our city move forward. Continue reading this post…

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Marching past the Queen City

On February 9, the Asheville City Council voted 4-2 to begin a study of the costs and implementation of domestic partner benefits for LGBT city employees and their partners. Their move last week is quite similar to Mecklenburg County Commissioners’ strategy when first looking into the same issue back in January 2009. After a year of research, Mecklenburg officials voted in December to extend domestic partner benefits.

Of course, Mecklenburg’s decision didn’t come without the obligatory controversy from resident board conservative, Bill James. His “homo” remarks to fellow Commissioner Vilma Leake spawned calls for some sort of disciplinary action. Regardless, the benefits succeeded and will be offered starting in 2011.

Continue reading this post…

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Did that week really just fly by?

What happened to last week? A full five work days felt more like two. And, I was doing so well on posting here at the old personal pad again. Can’t control the news cycle, or the news makers, it seems.

Last week kept me busy at the day job, reporting on Mecklenburg County’s decision to extend health and leave benefits to same-sex partners of county employees. Then, I was kept busy still reporting on the antics of Republican Commissioner Bill James. All of this on top of our usual production week for the Dec. 26 print issue.

Christmas is almost here and New Year’s is just around the corner. I’m excited to get Q-Notes‘ last print issue of the year out on the news stands this week. Click over to Q-Notes and sign up for our email newsletter to get a preview of our year-end wrap up. We’ll announce our Person of the Year and Person of the Decade in the issue, too!

The Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners will consider a proposal at a private retreat today and tomorrow, looking to study the issue of offering domestic partner benefits to county employees.

Any move by the Commission in the next couple days won’t institute benefits, but rather instruct county employees to study the possibility.

Still, outspoken, conservative Commissioner Bill James (R) says the Commission shouldn’t even be discussing the issue. He says it is illegal to offer these benefits, in part because LGBT people are criminals (he cites North Carolina’s “sodomy statute,” or Crimes Against Nature statute).

In an email to constituents and the media on Monday, James used an anti-transgender slur to refer to transgender people and accused bisexuals of being promiscuous and living in threeway relationships.

The Charlotte Observer reports that straight-ally Commission Chair Jennifer Roberts is pushing the issue:

But Roberts said the issue is about offering a benefits package that is fair and competitive. “I think (extending the benefits) shows that you’re keeping up with what’s going on in the marketplace,” Roberts said. “It shows that you are moving forward and that you’re trying to treat employees with fairness.”

Statement from the Mecklenburg Gay and Lesbian Political Action Committee (MeckPAC):

Mecklenburg Gay & Lesbian Political Action Committee (MeckPAC) is pleased that the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners has begun researching the issue of domestic partner benefits for the county’s employees. MeckPAC will ensure that County Commissioners have the most accurate resources available to help guide their decision-making on this important issue. Mecklenburg County lags far behind many businesses and other similar-sized municipal governments who have long ago enacted policies that provide such benefits. Top-notch recruitment/retention of county employees, as well as the strong message it sends that Charlotte is an inclusive and welcoming place to live and work, are major reasons why providing employee benefits equitably is so vitally important.

Update: So I posted so quickly this morning my blurb about a local media group was wrong. Oops. Sorry.

No Carolinas media outlet, save Q-Notes, has called James out on his use of slurs or prejudicial stereotypes.

The Observer has an online poll up… Should the County extend benefits to domestic partners. As of Thursday morning, “NO” was clearly in the lead. Visit The Observer‘s site to vote.