Update (Feb. 4, 2013, 1:10 p.m.): Be sure to head over to QNotes to read the editorial, “Critics of Boy Scout policy should follow Scouters’ lead,” published this morning.

Boy Scouts Memorial, Washington, D.C. Inscription: This memorial was authorized by the Congress of the United States and directed in recognition of the fiftieth anniversary of the Boy Scouts of America in grateful tribute to the men and women whose generosity devotion and leadership have brought Scouting to the nation's youth and to honor all members of the Boy Scouts of America who in days of peace and times of peril have their duty to God and their country. Photo: Elvert Barnes, via Flickr. Licensed CC.

There was much controversy this past week as news broke that the national board of the Boy Scouts of America would be considering ending their national anti-gay membership and leadership policy.

“This would mean there would no longer be any national policy regarding sexual orientation, and the chartered organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting would accept membership and select leaders consistent with each organization’s mission, principles, or religious beliefs,” Scouts spokesperson Deron Smith said in a statement. “BSA members and parents would be able to choose a local unit that best meets the needs of their families.”

Smith also promised that the Scouts’ national leaders would “not, under any circumstances, dictate a position to units, members, or parents” and that the national body “would not require any chartered organization to act in ways inconsistent with that organization’s mission, principles, or religious beliefs.”

The news of this week is stunning, reversing decades of exclusion of gay men and boys from participation in the nation’s preeminent organization for training and equipping young men with the tools, principles and values necessary for becoming good citizens.

There’s no firm deadline determined for making the decision, but it could come down as soon as this coming week’s national executive board meeting. And, in the meantime, LGBT and progressive leaders are speaking out with a variety of talking points, some helpful and others I believe ignore the reality of this small bit of forward movement, the chink in the armor of the Scouts’ long-standing discriminatory practices that will inevitably give way to extraordinary progress.  Continue reading this post…

My Scouting uniform, hat, merit badge sash, handbook and other items.

[Note: I know my blog has been dormant here lately. Work and school has been taking its toll. I have always deeply appreciated the kind support of my friends, fans and followers. Though I may not be posting regularly here, you can always find me at my day job and, one day, we’ll see about getting InterstateQ.com kick-started again. For now, an important message below…]

As many of you have already heard, the Boy Scouts of America will be considering easing up their controversial national policy excluding gay Scouts and Scout leaders (see local North Carolina coverage, including some remarks from me, for more). The policy would allow local units to decide their own membership and leadership standards. The policy is a step forward and a huge development, no doubt, but it isn’t perfect. The policy excluding members and leaders on the basis of religious belief is not being amended and the local-based policy will result in gaps that could still leave some young gay boys and men at the mercy of hostile, anti-gay leaders, bullying and harassment (see this Associated Press article in which I contributed some comments for more on this issue). Regardless, this step toward progress is one I support. Below, my letter to the national Boy Scouts of America’s office, which is accepting input on the proposed policy change. You can provide your own input via email at nationalsupportcenter@scouting.org or you can call the National Service Desk at 972-580-2330. A representative will take your call and ask if you are for or against the policy change (h/t Dallas Voice).

My letter to the Boy Scouts of America:

Dear fellow Scouters,

I am writing in support of the proposed national policy change that would allow local chartering organizations to determine their own membership and leadership standards for individual troops and packs. Though I believe the policy does not yet go quite far enough in addressing all issues of discrimination, rejection and exclusion, I believe this is the right step forward. I urge you to approve the proposed policy.

In 2000, I was dismissed from Scouting at the age of 14, after I came out as gay and started an anti-bullying club at my high school. I had been involved in Scouting since elementary school. Scouting was an integral part of my life. It was a support network of family and friends. At the time of my dismissal, I had recently served as my troop’s chaplain aide and was a few short community service hours and a scoutmaster review away from obtaining my Life rank. If I had not have been dismissed, I’m more than sure I would have earned my Eagle award shortly thereafter. I am saddened that opportunity was taken away from me, as my scoutmaster put, “If you choose to live that lifestyle, then you’re choosing not to be a Boy Scout.” They were harsh, scary and intimidating words for a 14-year-old to hear from a man he respected.

With this policy change, I hope that other young men like me who are in Scouting now will not be faced with the same humiliation, exclusion, derision and rejection I once was. As an organization that cares about the well-being and development of our young men into future citizens, I am sure you also do not want our young people to be treated in such ways.

In the first edition of the Boy Scouts Handbook in 1911, Scouting promised that “every American boy shall have the opportunity of becoming a good scout.” It has, as of yet, been more of an ideal, but I hope that this proposed policy change will finally begin to fulfill this promise and move the Boy Scouts of America forward in remaining true to its core American values and principles. Indeed, moving toward inclusion will ensure that Scouting truly means what it stands for when it teaches young men the Scout Oath and Scout Law.

I urge you to pass the change and continue your movement toward acceptance of all your Scouters, gay or straight.

Matt Hill Comer
Dismissed Gay Scouter, Troop 715
New Philadelphia Moravian Church
Old Hickory Council, Winston-Salem, N.C.

A long time coming: Pictured, dear friends gathered with me to protest the Boy Scouts' anti-gay policies in an event at the Old Hickory Council headquarters in Winston-Salem, N.C., in 2004.

Prolific and longtime Greensboro blogger and journalist Ed Cone has been moderating a phenomenal discussion on North Carolina’s Amendment One among his readers over the past week.

It started with the Greensboro City Council’s hearing of a resolution to oppose the anti-LGBT amendment on Feb. 7. Cone and others immediately took Rachel Lee, communications director for the anti-gay Vote for Marriage NC referendum committee, to task after she relayed false polling data to the council and the public during the Tuesday hearing.

In the ensuing conversation — in which Lee refused to answer any of his questions about the constitutional provision and its impact on civil unions — Cone discussed just one of many possible strategies for working to defeat the amendment.

He wrote:

A lot of people who oppose gay marriage might well support civil unions. While such unions are not now available to North Carolinians, this amendment takes them off the table for the future. It’s a zero-compromise solution.

This needs to be discussed whenever the amendment is discussed.


But making civil unions unconstitutional could be a powerful wedge issue.

That’s why the supporters of the amendment do not want to talk about it, and why people who oppose the amendment should make sure it’s a major part of the debate.

Polling data supports Cone’s strategy.

From Public Policy Polling’s recent January data-gathering (emphasis added):

North Carolinians are increasingly having doubts about the state’s proposed amendment to ban gay marriage.  When PPP first polled on it in October 61% of voters said they would support it.  That’s ticked down to 59%, 58%, and now 56% over the course of our last three polls. It’s still leading for passage by a healthy 56/34 margin but the trendlines have to be encouraging for those hoping to defeat it.

The decrease in support for the amendment may reflect voters in the state becoming more aware about just how far reaching it would be. 57% of North Carolinians support some form of legal recognition for gay couples- either full marriage rights or civil unions- to only 40% who are completely opposed to any rights for same sex couples.

There are a lot of voters who are fine with civil unions but not with gay marriage who are planning right now to vote for the amendment, not realizing that it would ban civil unions too.  But some of those folks are starting to move out of the ‘yes’ column, and getting a bunch more of them to will be the key to defeating the proposal.

Focusing on civil unions might be a smart strategy to reach folks in the middle, but it is a strategy that, even if understood, can be upsetting to LGBT North Carolinians. Why fight for table crumbs when you feel like you deserve a seat for the feast?

“Patrick,” one of Cone’s readers eloquently made such an argument:

I would prefer to talk about equal protection of the law and leave everyone, and their churches, to their own morality. But yes, it is galling to have to grope for political compromise to hold out the possibility that sometime in the future you might be granted a legal status that is separate but somewhat similar but ought to be good enough because it’s more than you ever thought you’d get anyway. It is also galling to have to figure out how much prejudice and discrimination you’re willing to accept from people who are your allies because, though vaguely uncomfortable with you, they don’t actively want to spray paint “faggot” on your garage door or toss Molotov cocktails through your living room window. I was born a free citizen of the United States and North Carolina. I work every day. I maintain a respectable home. I pay a third of my income in taxes. I put cans of food in the paper bags the kids leave on my porch. I recycle, and I vote every time they open the door. I didn’t ask to be allowed to marry my partner of 14 years. I didn’t complain last year when I had unexpected minor surgery at Wesley Long Hospital and the holder of my health care power of attorney was cross-examined in the waiting room about his relationship to me and then wasn’t given one of the beepers that everyone else got to let them know their loved-one had survived. I didn’t go looking for Skip Stam to try to gay-marry him, but he came looking for me anyway. I haven’t asked anyone for anything, and I shouldn’t have to. Yes, it galls.

Those advocating a defeat to the amendment — primarily the Coalition to Protect All NC Families — have already begun a great amount of work in educating the public on the potential harm that could come to North Carolina’s families if this amendment is approved. In addition, there’s a great deal of harm that could come to the state’s children, to the state’s enforcement of domestic violence statutes, to personal freedoms and to the economy.

I agree with Patrick. It sucks to have to subjugate our movement for full equality — even if for only a few months. But, marriage equality in North Carolina is a long-time coming. Even if the amendment fails, we still won’t have full marriage rights — we likely never will, at least until Congress or the U.S. Supreme Court steps in. So, this particular political struggle isn’t about marriage. It never was about marriage. Instead, it’s about an out-of-control legislature and radical far-right fringe that’s seeking to extend the reach of big government’s arms into the personal lives and bedrooms of all North Carolinians — gay or straight.

More and more Tar Heel voters are starting to realize just how far-reaching this amendment is. Even some of our more conservative North Carolina voters are beginning to realize the harms of Amendment One, if some of my several conversations with Tar Heel Republicans can be any indicator. For many of them, the amendment is the absolute antithesis of conservatism.

As PPP points out, support for the amendment has decreased a full five percentage points over the course of four months. If the trend continues, we may very well see victory on May 8.

Vote for Marriage NC, the referendum committee heading up the campaign to approve an anti-LGBT state constitutional amendment in May, is playing catch-up today. They’re trying to convince the public that their communications director, Rachel Lee, didn’t so much as “lie” about polling numbers on the amendment at the Greensboro City Council meeting Tuesday as she merely “misspoke.”

Lee’s Tuesday-night remarks (h/t Roch101):

Activist Tyler McCall caught Lee’s remarks and reached out to Public Policy Polling via Twitter on Tuesday evening. That short convo, as I reported on Wednesday morning:

According to Tyler, the NC4Marriage rep said Durham-based Public Policy Polling had found that 70 percent of Greensboro residents were in favor of the amendment. To his credit, Tyler sniffed a rat in that mountain of a woodpile.

He contacted PPP via Twitter: “@pppolls – Speaker at Greensboro City Council tonight said that 70% of #GSO residents support #Amendment1, according to your poll. True?”

PPP’s response was simple enough: “We have not done a poll of Greensboro residents.”

Greensboro blogger Ed Cone was able to speak to Lee. His account of his telephone conversation with her (h/t Roch101):

She said that on Tuesday, as she was rushing out the door for a television interview, a coworker gave her a spreadsheet with a lot of numbers on it.

This led to confusion. The numbers she attributed to PPP in Greensboro were actually, she said, from Civitas and for Charlotte.

She says poll numbers for Greensboro are actually 61% for Greensboro and 66% for the Piedmont. A comment from her coworker in the thread below this post indicates that these numbers also come from Civitas, not PPP.

I asked her if my reading of the amendment is correct, that it would outlaw civil unions in North Carolina.

She said the amendment defines marriage.

I repeated my question about outlawing civil unions. She said she was in a hurry, but civil unions already are not legal in this state.

I said, OK, but since you are in a hurry, could you tell me, yes or no, if this amendment would indeed make civil unions unconstitutional in North Carolina.

She said, I’m calling you back in reference to the poll question.

I said, So you will not answer the question, yes or no, would this amendment make civil unions unconstitutional in North Carolina?

She said, You have a good day, Ed, bye, and she hung up.

“Lenny” from Vote for Marriage NC (who is this guy, exactly) also commented on my Wednesday morning post regarding Lee’s lies. He wrote:

Greetings Matt,

Thanks for contacting us. I wanted to share with you those numbers she mentioned from the Civitas Jan 2012 poll. Support for the Constitutional Amendment to protect the definition of marriage:

Total Support: 62%
Charlotte Media Market: 74%
Greensboro MM: 61%
Piedmont Triad: 66%
Men: 64%
Women: 61%
Piedmont Triad: 66%

There is also a majority support among Men (64%), Women (61%), registered Republicans (75%), Democrats (58%), Independents (52%), all categories of likely voters (62%-78%), African Americans (66%), and whites (62%). You’ll find the Civitas Jan 2012 poll posted on their website soon.

Have a great day!

PS: We talked to Ed Cone and supplied him with some information. You can find it here:http://edcone.typepad.com/wordup/2012/02/they-write-letters.html#comments

He made the exact same comment at Ed Cone’s pad. To which Roch101 responded:

“Lenny,” thank you for commenting. I see that you are with Vote for Marriage NC. In light of this week’s events, you will understand if we simply do not accept as credible another undocumented assertion from your Political Action Committee.

Since the poll you cite is not listed among the poll results on the Civitas website, please provide a link to these poll results or email them to me: sysop@wirecom.com

Roch hits it right on the nail. Vote for Marriage NC is still attempting to deceive the Greensboro and North Carolina public. Regardless of their attempts to spin, none of the numbers they’re providing now even come close to Lee’s comments. Even the Civitas numbers Vote for Marriage NC says Lee was really citing don’t say that 70 percent of Greensboro residents support the amendment. That number is just 61 percent.

Yesterday’s post on Greensboro City Councilmember Trudy Wade was harsh — I admit it. But, certainly it wasn’t any harsher than the painfully bigoted position Wade took heading into last night’s debate on a resolution to oppose the state’s anti-LGBT, anti-family constitutional amendment.

The resolution passed 7-1, with Wade the lone dissenter.

Wade had wanted to postpone last night’s debate on the resolution. She insisted that the city should hold public hearings on the matter, despite the fact that her Republican colleagues in the North Carolina House and Senate failed to just that, rushing the proposed amendment through the committee process in the House and attempting to conceal its identity in the Senate.

But, nonetheless, it was a public hearing Wade wanted and a public hearing Wade got.

Council members went wide when nearly the whole room stood in favor of #gsoresolution
Robert Eldredge


From the looks of the livetweeting last night by @racetotheballot, @nc4equality and others, Wade got more feedback than she’d ever need. So much so, that the Greensboro City Council decided to take a 10-minute recess in the middle of the public comment period.


A few highlights from those opposed to the amendment and in favor of the resolution, who, by far, outweighed the number of speakers standing in favor of discrimination:

"We urge the city council to oppose [#Amendment1]. We stand for equal rights for all." -Rep. from League of Women Voters #GSOresolution
A recently naturalized citizen shares her opposition to #Amendment1. This amendment doesn't aline with pledge of allegiance. #GSOresolution
"1 in 10 #Guilford county residents are unemployed...[and] we don't need divisive mean-spirited amendments right now." #GSOresolution #may8
"If Amendment One is adopted cities like #GSO will no longer b able 2 provide DP benefits to city employees" -AndrewSpainhour #GSOresolution


And, when it was time for discussion by council itself, I don’t think I could have been any prouder:

"I believe taking a stand can only lead other municipalities to take a stand." -Marikay Abuzuaiter #GSOresolution
"[#Amendment1] will affect domestic partnerships & unions & has the potential to take away benefits." - Yvonne Johnson #GSOresolution #may8
Yvonne Johnson asks "do we want to take the risk of Bank of America leaving #CLT?" on opposing #Amendment1 #GSOresolution
Truth from Nancy Vaughn of the #GSO city council: neither the house, nor the Senate, had public hearings on #Amendment1. #GSOresolution
"Perhaps if they had listened to their constituents...they wld hv learnd amending our const. is poor pub. policy" -N. Vaughan #GSOresolution
"Gay people are just like you & me. They pay their taxes...and they're our neighbors." - Nancy Vaughn #GSOresolution #Amendment1
"I dont want to send the message to our gay citizens that they R not valued in our community." -N. Vaughan #GSOresolution
Councilwoman Nancy Hoffman believes #Amendment1 brands state as "regressive and noninclusive" #GSOresolution


Perhaps the most inspiring comments from council came from none other than Greensboro’s Republican mayor, Robbie Perkins, proving that the amendment isn’t a gay-straight or Democratic-Republican issue, but rather one that affects all people:

Republican #GSO Mayor Robbie Perkins sharing his evolution on #equality. #GSOresolution #Amendment1
"I can take a stand...bc...we R all in this together." #GSO Mayor Robbie Perkins #GSOresolution
"We can build a strong city, state, and country...I am in support of the #GSOresolution." - Mayor Robbie Perkins #Amendment1
"Willing to use the differencein us to build a stronger city, state & country....I will support resolution"#GSO Mayor Perkins #GSOresolution


In Mourning: Trudy Wade comes to the realization that bigotry isn't a winner.

And, while all this was going on, Dear Trudy (in center, photo at right) stayed silent. Her somber mood and her in-mourning-like dress was all quite fitting. If you’re going to stand up for evil, might as well wear its colors.

There were few people who spoke out against the resolution and in favor of the amendment. Of those who did, however, one person stood out of the pack.

Tyler J. McCall, an activist with Neighbors for Equality, tweeted that communications director for Vote For Marriage NC, the referendum committee pushing for the anti-LGBT amendment, shared not-so-accurate facts.

According to Tyler, the NC4Marriage rep said Durham-based Public Policy Polling had found that 70 percent of Greensboro residents were in favor of the amendment. To his credit, Tyler sniffed a rat in that mountain of a woodpile.

He contacted PPP via Twitter: “@pppolls – Speaker at Greensboro City Council tonight said that 70% of #GSO residents support #Amendment1, according to your poll. True?”

PPP’s response was simple enough: “We have not done a poll of Greensboro residents.”

If you’re going to religion and God to push discrimination into the state’s constitution, one might think you’d try to at least be honest with it. Nope. Anti-gay zealots have a tendency to suspend that scriptural prohibition against lying when attacking the gays. Rule numero uno in their “How to Malign the Fags Handbook” — it’s in chapter one, “Distractions and Division 101.”


Tonight, the Greensboro City Council will consider a resolution opposing the impending anti-LGBT constitutional amendment set to go before North Carolina voters on May 8.

Trudy Wade

The resolution (read it here, item 33), supported by Mayor Robbie Perkins and Councilman Zack Matheny, primarily addresses the impact the amendment will have on city government’s ability to offer health and other benefits to the same-sex partners of their LGBT employees. For sure, there’s no soaring rhetoric about full marriage equality. Because after all, as the wise Ed Cone reminds Greensborians, the amendment does more than “define” so-called “traditional marriage.”

Still, Councilmember Trudy Wade says she is opposed. She stands in favor of the constitutional amendment and wants to postpone tonight’s vote in order to conduct public hearings.

But why the public hearings, Mrs. Wade? Isn’t your mind already made up? Via Jeff Martin:

The May 8th election is an important one for the future of our state. The very basis of our legal system — our Judeo-Christian principles — is on the ballot. I hope that each citizen will register to vote and make sure that conservative family values are not compromised in our great state.

Martin says Mrs. Wade has “consign[ed] herself to that shameful pantheon of reprobates otherwise known as dumb conservatives.”

I won’t be as nice…

Let me put this as plainly as I can: Mrs. Wade, you are a bigot. In what just world is it appropriate to support a constitutional measure that forever encases an entire minority of people in second-class citizenship? Would you have supported public votes on any number of this country’s other historic civil rights measures? If your answer is yes, you’re even more of a bigot than you appear. If your answer is no, then you’re just an anti-gay bigot. Either way, you’re a bigot.

An aerial photograph showing the construction of the new I-85 bridge over the Yadkin River at the Davidson County and Rowan County lines. Credit: N.C. DOT, via Flickr.

The Charlotte Observer published a short piece on Gov. Bev Perdue’s and state transportation official’s press conference yesterday on recently-begun highway construction projects in and around the Charlotte-metro area. In particular, the governor focused on the widening of I-85 through Cabarrus County, the construction of northern junction of I-85 and I-485 and the completion of the final 5.7-mile leg of I-485 in northeast Charlotte.

The Charlotte-metro aren’t the only current interstate projects that will benefit the growing Queen City. A bit farther up I-85 and north of the already-widened portion in Rowan County, work crews are busy building a new bridge and roadway to both replace the decrepit Yadkin River bridge and widen the interstate.  Continue reading this post…


A note on transitions and new opportunities

By now, many of you might have heard through QNotes, Facebook, Twitter, or Creative Loafing fine editor, Mark Kemp, that I will be stepping down from my position at QNotes on Jan. 20. It’s been a fantastic experience and one for which I’m truly grateful. Below is the letter I sent to many personal friends, acquaintances and colleagues after my resignation was announced by the paper.

Dear friends and colleagues,

It is with humility and gratitude that I write tonight to let you know that I will be stepping down from my role as editor of QNotes, the Charlotte-based LGBT newspaper and North Carolina’s premier source of news, opinion and arts and entertainment coverage. My last day with the paper will be Jan. 20, 2012, as announced by the paper on Tuesday evening (http://goqnotes.com/14053/).

On Jan. 23, I will begin work as the new communications and programs manager for Campus Pride, a Charlotte-based, national non-profit group that works to create safer environments for LGBT students on college and university campuses across the United States. An official announcement from the organization should be soon forthcoming.

As I prepare to take on new challenges, I find it necessary to pause and thank each and every one of you for your support of me and of this newspaper. Each of you has contributed in myriad ways to the success of this community, of Charlotte, of North Carolina and of this organization. Personally, each of you has made my life richer and fuller.

But, don’t think for a minute that this is a goodbye. You don’t get away from me that easily, haha.

Though I am leaving QNotes, I will remain an avid and vocal supporter for our community and for independent, progressive and LGBT-inclusive news-media. As always, I’ll continue to advocate for fair and equitable coverage from mainstream news-media organizations and will remain a committed advocate for progress and change. I hope new opportunities allow me to be more involved in our community in new and exciting ways, especially as the May 8, 2012, vote on North Carolina’s anti-LGBT state constitutional amendment draws near.

Again, thank you for all you have done to support me both personally and professionally. Thank you once more for the support you have given and will continue to give to QNotes and my yet-to-be-announced successor.

I humbly welcome your continued support, friendship and kindness, and hope you will continue to follow me in my new endeavors at Campus Pride. I’m excited about the opportunity to help Campus Pride grow and further fulfill its mission in supporting the future leaders of our community and nation.

Additionally, I hope you’ll stop by from time-to-time here at my blog, InterstateQ.com, where I will resume more regular posting. There, I will continue to provide the same objective, fair and progressive-minded coverage of the ongoing anti-LGBT amendment campaign you’ve come to expect from my work at QNotes and where I will continue providing commentary on local, state and national LGBT and progressive political affairs.

With love and wishes for a happy New Year,

Matt Comer

North Carolina’s favorite conservative columnist, Wilmington’s Mike Adams, brought back some fond memories of my days at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) today.

In his most recent column at TownHall.com, Adams rants and raves in his usual sarcastic, smart-ass-style against UNCG’s Speech and Hearing Center’s courses for transgender people undergoing transition. He brought back one of his trademark digs. Welcome to the return of “UNC-Gomorrah.” Continue reading this post…


‘Porn’ at the Greensboro library?

An old Greensboro friend and blogging buddy Roch Smith asked me a couple weeks ago if I’d be willing to help him out with a little project. Of course, I said yes.

The Greensboro City Council was considering the addition of stronger pornography filters to the computers at its libraries. Unfortunately, most porn filters end up filtering out more than just porn. Many times, the filtering software limits access to non-obscene, medically accurate and beneficial information. Sometimes that is an unforeseen byproduct of the service/software providing the filtering. Other times, as was the case in the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School System when I was a student there, improper filtering of non-obscene material is by design. Continue reading this post…