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Posted on 09/19/2017 @ 05:25 PM

          Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman wth his wife Janet.

N.C. religious leader yearns for healing

and awakening in the Christian church

“The time is always right to do the right thing.” 

― Dr. Martin Luther King

It was late one evening many years ago that Dr. Rev. T. Anthony Spearman of Greensboro resolved any conflict between his mind and heart in relation to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals.

His mind had been conditioned to believe – like many religious leaders and others at the time – that “homosexuality” was a sinful condition.

In a meeting that evening with a student who was contemplating ending his life, Spearman began to understand the oppressive social climate the young gay man was experiencing. It also was a point at which he began to better understand how certain religious teaching forms a foundation for such oppression.

That night, he began a journey that would bring him to what he knows today to be a truth – there is no inherent sin in sexual orientation or gender identity. Instead, Spearman has concluded the egregious sin related to “homosexuality” belongs to a “distinct strain” of Christianity that teaches Christians should condemn, judge and oppress lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals.

Spearman has been involved in LGBTQ advocacy for a number of years and has been an outspoken critic of anti-gay marriage amendments and anti-LGBTQ legislation such as last year’s HB2 – a bill that eliminated municipal LGTBQ nondiscrimination protection and targeted transgender individuals with a campaign of misinformation and demoralization. 

But as Spearman assesses the Christian church today – and more specifically that distinct strain within the Christian church – he sees a problem that is far from limited to negative religious attitudes toward LGBTQ people. 

From Spearman’s watch, it is much more pervasive than that. Listening as Spearman talks about the current condition of the Christian church, it becomes clear that he is talking about a form of blindness – a condition from which Christians fail to see how what once may have been considered blemishes on the body of Christ have now taken on a much more ominous prognosis.

“Which of the 25 judicatories will it be to strive for the high-level cost of discipleship, to denounce the bombastic bigotry and hate-filled hypocrisy that annihilates our Christianity,” he asks in his address.

He sees long-festering sores that now appear as ugly wounds – the result of a mindset that prevents many Christians from seeing their neighbors as not equal in God’s image but rather inferior.  No one can dispute the historical analysis which makes evident how an element of the Christian church in America has treated African Americans as inferior to whites; women as inferior to men; gay as inferior to straight; and transgender as inferior to cisgender.

Spearman, who currently serves as president of the N.C. Council of Churches, is encouraging its members to visit the writings of its founder, H. Shelton Smith, who in the early 1900s wrote about racism and the Christian church in a book entitled “In His Image But…Racism in Southern Religion.’’ One 19th century reviewer writes: “Extremists considered the Negro inherently inferior and opposed any attempt to help him, while moderates agreed on his inferiority but favored educational uplift. Standing outside this dominant position were a handful of religious iconoclasts who rejected the doctrine of Negro racial inferiority.”

During a sermon delivered last year at the N.C. Council of Churches’ Critical Issues Seminar, Spearman made an impassioned plea for churches – whether many, few or a handful – to stand against the destructive forces that exist not outside the church but within.  “Which of the 25 judicatories will it be to strive for the high-level cost of discipleship, to denounce the bombastic bigotry and hate-filled hypocrisy that annihilates our Christianity,” he asks in his address. Listen to his address.
 

To continue reading, see SPEARMAN below.

"Dr. T"

A well-known social justice activist, Dr. T. Anthony Spearman is pastor of St. Phillip African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in Greensboro. Spearman serves as the third Vice President of the NC NAACP. Dr. Spearman has a Bachelor of Science Degree Summa Cum Laude from Mercy College in Yonkers, N.Y. in 1995; a Master of Divinity Degree Magna Cum Laude from Hood Theological Seminary in Salisbury, N.C. in 1998; and a Doctor of Ministry from the United Theological Seminary in Dayton Ohio in 2013. He is proficient in Greek, Hebrew, and Spanish. Spearman has been involved in community activism for the past 45 years and has rallied college students together; advocated for KMart employees; marched with Smithfield Workers; been a constant participant with the Historic Thousands on Jones Street Peoples Assembly; stood with the LGBT community against Amendment One and was one of the first 17 persons arrested during the Forward Together Movement’s Moral Mondays.

SPEARMAN – from top of page

Spearman’s indictment against that distinct strain of Christianity is much more than fodder for a sermon. It comes from many years as a leader in various social justice movements, from African American Civil Rights, LGBTQ Equality, criminal justice reform and others.

He cites the current debate of Civil War Monuments as an area in which Christian complacency must be replaced with leadership.

North Carolina is a state that has one of the highest number of Civil War Monuments and a majority of those monuments are on courthouse grounds.

As an advocate for laws and policy that address inequities for African Americans in the criminal justice system, Spearman sees the placement of those monuments on courthouse grounds as more than just irony or coincidence.

“I doubt that very seriously,” Spearman says. “There is more intentionality than we even give thought to in regard to these monuments. These monuments were erected when white supremacy, Jim Crow and segregation were going on and there were attempts to memorialize the North versus South fight. These monuments are filled with hatred.”

Spearman says he considers the toppling of a Civil War statue in Durham last month as a courageous act by the young woman who was arrested for allegedly leading the effort.

Former Republican Gov. Pat McCrory in 2015 signed a law that prevents removing, relocating, or altering monuments, memorials, plaques and other markers that are on public property without permission from the N.C. Historical Commission.

“These monuments are so holy and so scared now it is like it is a sin to tear them down,” he said. 

He recalls how an activist in South Carolina in 2015 took down the Confederate Flag that flew above the S.C. Capitol Building. That activist also was arrested but the S.C. Legislature voted the next month to discontinue flying the flag.

That episode followed the death of eight African American churchgoers in Charleston, S.C. at the hands of a self-avowed white supremacist.

Durham’s statue toppling followed the death of a 23-year-old female activist in Charlottesville, Va., after a man who reportedly sympathized with white supremacists drove his car into a crowd of peaceful counter-protesters.

“Why is it that in America blood has to be spilled before there is change,” Spearman asks.

He has personally worked to free imprisoned African Americans after they were wrongly convicted of crimes and he is not the only one who has taken note that many of North Carolina’s monuments are on courthouse grounds. “All those years, black people had to go to court, walk past this sign, and think you were going to get justice?” Tia Hall, an attendee at the Durham statue protest, was quoted to say in an article in “The Atlantic.”

And while there may be some who will argue for a historical significance to the Civil War monuments, few could doubt how the statues affect African Americans – memorializing a segment of a society that once believed slavery was a just and worthy cause. An unknown number of Christian pastors not only agreed but gave God’s blessing, according to H. Shelton Smith’s accounting.

A segment in H. Shelton Smith’s book posits that white Christians’ embrace of slavery and segregation is a chief reason the Christian church in America became segregated along racial lines– and for a large extent it remains that way today.

And while Spearman is remarkably attuned to the oppression of African Americans, his critique of the Christian church goes beyond racial injustice. He understands how a “distinct strain” of Christianity has been oppressive not only toward African Americans but other minorities.

“When you look at it analytically, you can’t help but come away with the understanding that there is a distinct strain of Christianity that is counter to Jesus,” Spearman states. “It goes against everything that Jesus stood for.”

Spearman says it is hard for him to understand how evangelical Christians – who often cast themselves as most endeared to the teachings of Christ – could have supported a candidate who played upon strife and social division while rejecting a candidate whose campaign messages included words like love, kindness and compassion for others.

That is what Spearman finds most perplexing if not vexing  – an inability or unwillingness for some Christians to discern between that which is of Christ and that which is not. More specifically in terms of furthering spiritual relationship is how or why some Christians cannot see the disastrous effect that such sanctioning of prejudice and bigotry is having on the Christian faith.

“I believe the gates of hell are prevailing against the church,” Spearman says. “And what is worse is that many Christians don’t seem to be aware of how the gates of hell are prevailing. They are living their lives blind sighted. They don’t realize, the person we call the Groom of the church – Jesus the founder of the church – is no longer there.”

Spearman speaks with a prophetic voice when he alludes to the consequence of a church that has fallen so far away from the teachings of Christ.

“I find it frightful,” he said.

But just as H. Shelton Smith identifies that handful of churches and pastors who could see their African American neighbors as equally God’s image, Spearman is hopeful that more than a handful are ready to step forward to re-establish that relational covenant.

“If what I read in the Bible, especially the Gospel account, has any resemblance to what needs to happen, there weren’t a whole lot of folk with Jesus,” he says. “He doesn’t need a lot of folks. He just needs committed folks. So I do have optimism that if enough of them come together, I believe a new dawning can take place and will take place. I’m hopeful enough to believe that is a possibility. As I told a group the other day, I believe a eucatastrophe is on the way from God Almighty. I believe that.”

Many in North Carolina’s faith communities believe the time is right. 

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N.C.'s Rabbi Guttman a Staunch LGBTQ Advocate

By Director of Faith Outreach Brent Childers on 07/25/2017 @ 02:28 PM

Jewish faith community leaders in North Carolina have been at the forefront of efforts to make full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals a reality. One of those leaders, Rabbi Fred Guttman of Greensboro, is proud of the role his congregation at Temple Emanuel has played and is playing in the LGBTQ Civil Rights Movement.

Guttman, who has served the congregation at Temple Emanuel for 22 years, cites an example from North Carolina’s 2012 Amendment One – a law that temporarily banned marriage equality – as a historic moment for both his congregation and himself. His congregation had adopted only one resolution under his leadership and that was in 2005 with a resolution to support sanctions against Iran – aimed at thwarting efforts by the country to obtain nuclear weapons.

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Rabbi Fred Guttman of Temple Emanuel in Greensboro is pictured with his daughter Maital and his mother Reta, who is holding the family's newborn grandson.

Its second resolution came in 2012 in opposition to Amendment One. “I took a resolution to the congregational board which opposed Amendment One,” Guttman states. “I thought there would be intense discussion. One person raised their hand and said ‘I move we accept the resolution.”’

Last year, the congregation at Temple Emanuel passed a resolution opposing North Carolina’s HB2 legislation – a hastily crafted and ill-intentioned attempt to prevent nondiscrimination protection for lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender individuals.

He says the HB2 resolution passed within a minute. While those votes were historic for the congregation, Guttman says it also was significant for him personally and as leader of the congregation. “It meant that I could speak on Amendment One and HB2 not only as Fred Guttman and Rabbi Guttman but I could speak on behalf of the congregation,” he said. “It was a historic occurrence for our congregation. “

“Fred Guttman” and “Rabbi Guttman” had been a vocal advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals for a number of years. He came to be a staunch advocate through a process that began some 18 years ago when his daughter came out as lesbian.

For the younger rabbi and at a point when he had not gained the understanding he possesses today, he said those earlier years were difficult. “It is not now as big a deal as it was then,” he said, a nod to the data that shows just how far the needle has moved in terms of negative attitudes toward lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals changing to positive ones. 

“But it was a big issue for me then and I didn't understand it,” he said. "And 18 or 19 years ago, I don’t think my daughter understood that it would take time to metabolize into my psyche. It was a game changer for me. It took me by surprise and I had no idea what it meant.

“At first, and I know this is stupid, but I thought maybe it's because I encouraged her too much in sports. But then I looked at all the girls on the team and said well they aren’t gay,” he added, displaying a sense of humor that so many have come to know.

Like so many other parents who grapple with a misunderstanding of sexual orientation and gender identity, he questioned whether his daughter’s sexual orientation was the result of something he had done wrong as a parent. What could he do to fix it? “Eventually I realized that this is who she was and this is how God had made her,” Guttman says. His daughter recently gave birth to the newest addition of Guttman’s family, a beautiful grandson. “And 18 or 19 years ago, I would never have thought my daughter would have a child. What did I know?

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Speaking in Raleigh at a 2013 service commentating the 10th Anniversary of the Mass Moral March on Raleigh.

“Eventually I went to her when she was in her early 20s and I told her I didn’t think I had been a very good parent. I asked her forgiveness for not always being as understanding and supportive as she deserved.”

Guttman said his journey took a turn inward and outward when Amendment One was passed by the N.C. House on Sept. 12, 2010, just a day after the annual observances of 9/11.

“On that day (Sept. 11, 2001) 3,000 people, most of them Americans, lost their lives because of intolerance, bigotry and hatred. The very next day after the 2011 observances, our state House had to pass a bill that proposed a constitutional amendment that was filled with intolerance and bigotry. 

The passage of Amendment One the following May would enshrine discrimination as an affront to a broad swath of North Carolinians – his daughter, other lesbian and gay individuals, their families, friends, co-workers and faith communities opposed to such discrimination.

“Now it wasn’t just about somebody else it was about my child.” Guttman said. “It goes very quickly from being about my child to everybody else, particularly as a rabbi.”

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Speaking last year in Greensboro at a service to honor those killed in the Orlando, Fla. Pulse nightclub tragedy.

Guttman said it was during that period that he began to understand just how important the civil rights issue was for progress toward full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals. Guttman says during that period he had been reading statements from Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, who emphasized how the struggle for LGBTQ equality indeed was a civil rights issue.
“Rev. Barber was writing not from a religious point of view but a civil rights point of view,” he said. “That really resonated with me.”

He says he had seen how impactful that message has been to African American audiences who deeply understand discrimination and social hostility.  A Stanford University political scientist testified in the 2010  California Prop8 trial that no other minority groups in America have been the target of more restrictive ballot initiatives than gay men and lesbians. 

He believes Amendment One might not have failed at the ballot box if those in favor of marriage equality had focused more on marriage equality as a civil rights issue – the argument that won the day in Obergefell v. Hodges, the U.S. Supreme Court case whose June 26, 2015 ruling overturned Amendment One and similar marriage bans across the nation.

While Guttman is a strong advocate for the LGBTQ community, he’s also a vocal advocate for other social justice issues. In 2013, he was honored as one of the 50 Faces of Justice, a one-time recognition for the 50th anniversary of the Religious Action Center on Reform Judaism – the hub of Jewish social justice and legislative activity in Washington.

In addition to his Rabbinical Ordination from Hebrew Union College in 1979, he has a Master degree in Hebrew Literature from Hebrew Union College and a Master of Education from the University of North Florida. His undergraduate education was at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. In 2004, he was awarded a Doctor of Divinity from Hebrew Union College. 

Guttman has seen progress on many fronts of the LGBTQ Civil Rights Movement – marriage equality, changing attitudes, and most important changing religious perspectives.

As recent data shows a dramatic shift in the way persons of faith think about sexual orientation and gender identity, affirming faith communities will continue to play a pivotal role in bringing that majority voice to the forefront. While “Fred Guttman” and “Rabbi Guttman” are strong and passionate voices for LGBTQ equality, it is the work and support of Temple Emanuel of Greensboro that gives him a deep sense of thankfulness and pride.

“They have done a lot and I am really, really proud.”

Read more in the 2nd Volume of Equality in Faith

Read more in the 2nd Volume of Equality in Faith

• Carrboro filmmaker explores affirmation in homes – bound and unbound • A Charlotte man's journey from rejection to affirmation • A mom from rural North Carolina shares her family's story

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IBM Tells State Leaders to Stop NC's RFRA

By Jen Jones on 04/17/2015 @ 08:00 PM

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With two so-called "Religious Freedom Restoration Act" (or RFRA) bills -- Senate Bill 550 and House Bill 348 -- still being considered in North Carolina, IBM's top North Carolina executive is the latest business behemoth to tell state lawmakers and Gov. Pat McCrory that the corporation strongly opposes the proposed legislation.

IBM, which employs thousands at its Research Triangle Park campus and more statewide, opposes the so-called "Religious Freedom Restoration Act" (or RFRA) because it would promote discrimination, executive Robert Greenberg said in a letter to Gov. McCrory posted on the company's website.

"IBM is opposed to discrimination against anyone on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation or religion. We urge you to work with the Legislature to ensure that any legislation in this area is not discriminatory," Greenberg wrote.

Equality NC's Chris Sgro immediately applauded the move by the tech giant, which joins over hundreds of companies that have opposed these discriminatory laws.

"We applaud IBM's decision to speak out in opposition to so-called 'religious freedoms' legislation in North Carolina," said Sgro. "The proposed legislation is detrimental to the citizens of the Old North State, as well as to our ability to attract and retain the best and brightest employees and businesses. It is no surprise to see the backlash across the nation from companies like IBM, Apple, American Airlines, and others against these bad-for-business legislation. We hope that Governor McCrory will continue to oppose RFRA measures and veto anything that comes across his desk along these lines. We know that from the tech hub in the Triangle, to financial services in Charlotte, to tourism at the coast and mountains and everywhere in between, the business voice here will oppose such measures."

CLICK HERE to join IBM in opposition to NC's "license to discriminate" RFRA >>

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Tech Giant Red Hat Attacks NC's RFRA

By Jen Jones on 04/15/2015 @ 11:00 AM

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With two so-called "Religious Freedom Restoration Act" (or RFRA) bills -- Senate Bill 550 and House Bill 348 -- still being considered in North Carolina, Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst has issued a statement attacking what he calls "divisive legislation." The bills could allow North Carolina businesses to discriminate against LGBT people.

"Red Hat has always believed in diversity, inclusion, and equality of voices - not only for our associates, but also our partners, customers, the broader technology industry, and the communities where we live and work," Whitehurst said.

"Our business is deeply rooted in the principles of collaboration and inclusion, where people from diverse backgrounds and experiences come together to share ideas, challenge the status quo, and spur innovation. We've seen first hand the impact of this collaboration among diverse groups of people. We cannot see any economic benefit from divisive legislation, and would prefer to see more attention given to issues that would have a demonstrable positive impact on all citizens."

The tech giant's (NYSE: RHT) headquarters are based in Raleigh, and the company is widely recognized for its diversity practices in hiring, recruiting and benefits.

CLICK HERE to join Red Hat in opposition to NC's "license to discriminate" RFRA >>

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NC Council of Churches Opposes "License to Discriminate"

By Jen Jones on 04/03/2015 @ 04:00 PM

The following is an excerpt of a statement by Rev. J. George Reed, Executive Director, North Carolina Council of Churches, posted on April 2, 2015. FULL STATEMENT >>

Religious freedom or using religion to justify discrimination?

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By George Reed

Discussions in recent days of so-called religious freedom bills in Indiana, Arkansas, and now North Carolina raise issues – both legal and pastoral – which the NC Council of Churches has been addressing for many years.

The legal context

The first words of the Bill of Rights are the religious liberty clauses: “Congress shall make no law regarding the establishment of religion nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The so-called Free Exercise Clause prohibits government from interfering in the practice of religion.

But constitutional rights are not absolute. So, for example, in the 1870s, the courts ruled that Mormons could believe that they were called to practice polygamy, but federal laws banning polygamy trumped the practice of polygamy even though based on sincerely held beliefs.

Over the years, the US Supreme Court established a standard for Free Exercise cases: Government could “substantially burden” someone’s practice of their faith only if there were a “compelling state interest” in doing so and if the limitation being imposed was the “least restrictive” manner of achieving that interest.

In 1990, the US Supreme Court replaced that standard with a must less restrictive one, i.e., it made it much easier for the state to infringe on people’s free exercise of religion. In response, Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) which did nothing more than restore the standards of substantial burden, compelling state interest and least restrictive manner.

The US Supreme Court ruled that Congress couldn’t made the standards applicable to the states, but the Court left open the option of states adopting their own RFRAs. Several did; North Carolina did not.

Where the Council stands

In 1998, the NC Council of Churches adopted a policy statement entitled “Religious Liberty” in which we called for the “passage of a state law, comparable to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which would prohibit restrictions on religious freedom unless the state is using the least restrictive way to achieve a compelling state interest.”

Our concern, and that of many groups at that time, was that the change in Free Exercise standards would lead to significant limitations on religious liberty and could especially encourage discrimination against “small and/or unpopular religious groups.” The statement mentioned impacts on practices by, among others, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Native Americans, Orthodox Jews, and Muslims. The full statement contains helpful information on the history of Free Exercise cases, the possible ramifications of the loss of the compelling state interest standard, and recommendations for protecting religious liberty, including the passage of a “pure RFRA-like statute” in North Carolina. It also warned against exceptions in RFRA laws that would discriminate against one category of people, prisoners. Click here to read the full statement.

In recent days, state RFRAs have reappeared, but this time being promoted by people opposed to same-gender marriage and worried about its increasing legal and social acceptance. The concern that has been voiced is for people in the marriage “industry” – caterers, florists, wedding directors, etc. – who might be forced to provide wedding services to couples whose weddings are contrary to their religious beliefs. Such a law has brought widespread attention to the state of Indiana, and similar bills have been introduced in North Carolina.

The Council remains committed to the protection of religious liberty and remains especially concerned that there be protection from discrimination against adherents of small, uninfluential, and/or unpopular denominations and faiths. At the same time, over the decades, we have voiced our opposition to all forms of discrimination, including those based on race, gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. Click here to read our 1992 statement on discrimination based on sexual orientation.

As currently written, the North Carolina bills would permit discrimination based on religious beliefs, not just regarding sexual orientation, but also race/ethnicity, religion, and other factors. So, for example, a florist whose religious beliefs were in opposition to inter-racial marriages or inter-faith marriages or second marriages for divorced people would be permitted to use those beliefs to refuse to serve such couples.

While we continue to support the concept of a state law that is equivalent to the federal RFRA, the bills introduced recently in North Carolina differ significantly from the federal law in scope and impact. For example, the NC bills omit the word “substantial” in speaking of the burden imposed, and they refer to a government interest “of the highest magnitude.”

We will oppose any legislation which would permit religious beliefs to be used as a justification for discrimination.

CLICK HERE to urge your electeds to oppose NC's "license to discriminate" RFRA >>

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American Airlines Signals it Will Fight NC's RFRA

By Jen Jones on 04/01/2015 @ 03:00 PM

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On Monday, American Airlines signaled it would fight North Carolina's RFRA legislation – just as it opposed a similar bill in Arizona that was vetoed last year by then-Gov. Jan Brewer. American CEO Doug Parker had raised the prospect of cutting flights in Arizona if the legislation had gone into effect.

“We believe no individual should be refused service or employment because of gender identity or sexual orientation,” American Airlines spokeswoman Michelle Mohr said in a statement. “…Laws like this will harm the economies of the states in which they are enacted, and would ultimately be a step in the wrong direction for a society that seeks tolerance, peace and prosperity for all.”

American Airlines has its second-largest hub in Charlotte and employs thousands in the Queen City.

CLICK HERE to join American Airlines in opposition to NC's "license to discriminate" RFRA >>

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Myriad Media's Cope Calls RFRA Bills "Discrimination"

By Jen Jones on 04/01/2015 @ 11:00 AM

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The negative attention facing North Carolina's proposed RFRA bills keeps piling on after Tony Cope—co-owner of Myriad Media, a Raleigh-based production company—posted the following blog expressing his disappointment over bills he calls "discrimination."

"I want to provide a small business perspective on this issue. Will Feichter and I started Myriad Media 22 years ago. We now have 20 people in Raleigh, 17 in Vancouver, and we’re working on an office in NYC.

Despite all the growth, there is an absolute truth: Your people make you successful. I love every person on our team, and we are humbled to consider these marvelous folks our co-workers.

Because of this, we could imagine no greater insult than to infringe on anyone’s personal choices. In fact, the only discussion we would ever have with a co-worker regarding their lifestyle is if we could offer some measure of support.

That is our issue with these hostile bills:

How can we foster a healthy work-life balance when our legislature feels that those decisions should be at the discretion of a stranger’s religious expressions?

And how can we recruit and maintain top-level talent with that kind of culture? Our state is currently creating a hostile environment for many North Carolinians. The respectful environment we strive to build at Myriad can not compete with a dysfunctional community.

These legislative efforts, whether or not they pass, tell people that North Carolina does not care for a specific group of people. As a small business owner, it is my responsibility to show that I am adamantly opposed to this message, and that Myriad will always honor a person’s right to guide their own life.

Should this push away a would-be or existing client, we will consider it as avoiding business relationships that aren’t a healthy fit for our culture. We will always fight against discrimination.

Years ago, our country had a discussion about who has the right to be served at the lunch counter. North Carolina came out on the wrong side of that argument, and it resulted in decades of damaged reputation and lack of trust.

Here we are again, having the same argument, fighting again to be on the wrong side of history. Only this time, I know what damage it can cause to a business.

The current attempt to define “religious freedom” as some special class of freedom only serves as an excuse to minimize the freedoms of others. There’s nothing more sacred than the freedom of each person to guide their own life and personal choices.

That’s a fight we are very happy to be public about."

CLICK HERE to join Myriad Media in opposition to NC's "license to discriminate" RFRA >>

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Help Equality NC Keep Up the Pace

By Chris Sgro on 03/04/2015 @ 10:00 AM

Can you please chip in to help us financially right now?

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You've probably seen or heard us all over the news and on social media.

We've been fighting hard for LGBT protections in Raleigh, Greensboro and Charlotte throughout the year, as well as continuing our ongoing education and advocacy work in every corner of the state.

(Even now, we're headed back to the capital to try to stop anti-LGBT legislation at the General Assembly.)

In 2015, we're calling out extremists at the legislature. Working with legislative champions to make positive changes. Providing state and national exposure to North Carolina's fusion movement and activism. And turning our attention to passing local protections in your communities where being able to live, work, and raise a family free of discrimination is most important, even as we gear up to fight for a statewide LGBT-inclusive employment law this year. One question: Can you please chip in to help us financially right now?

Now we need your help. We need your financial support to keep up this frenetic pace -- plain and simple. Chip in $10 or more now.

This is what we all signed up for. Let us know you're with us. Please, go to our donate page: equalitync.org/action/donate

Your individual investments are our #1 source of funding for the activism you've seen thus far in 2015. And we need your help to keep this work going, and keep our dream of building a state of equality alive and well.

Become a $10 or more monthly sustainer (or increase your current recurring gift) and we'll send you something special to thank you for supporting our work year-round! Check it out >>>

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Gay and Transgender Charlotteans Are Under Attack

By Chris Sgro on 02/12/2015 @ 10:00 AM

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Anti-LGBT forces in our state are targeting gay and transgender Charlotteans. We need your help right now.

The same extreme group that spearheaded our state's marriage ban, has now set its sights on preventing elected leaders from updating non-discrimination ordinances to protect gay and transgender Charlotteans in public accommodations. To do so, they're spreading misinformation and outright lies about our community.

The Charlotte City Council will vote on these protections on February 23, at 6:30 p.m. and we need our fair-minded supporters at that meeting.

But we can't wait. The other side is calling and emailing Charlotte's leaders right now. We need to make sure fair-minded voices are heard in support of these important protections. For more on these protections, why they're important, and how to talk about them, please click here.

Call or email Charlotte's leaders today:

Mayor Dan Clodfelter
704-336-2241
mayor@charlottenc.gov

Mayor Pro Tem Michael D. Barnes
704-509-6141
barnesforcharlotte@gmail.com

Claire Green Fallon
704-336-6105
cfallon@charlottenc.gov

David Howard
704-336-4099
info@davidhowardclt.com

Vi Lyles
704-336-3431
vlyles@charlottenc.gov

Patsy B. Kinsey
704-336-3432
pkinsey@charlottenc.gov

Al Austin
704-336-3185
aaustin@charlottenc.gov

LaWana Mayfield
704-336-3435
lmayfield@charlottenc.gov

Gregory A. Phipps
704-336-3436
gaphipps@charlottenc.gov

John N. Autry
704-336-2777
jautry@charlottenc.gov

Kenny Smith
704-574-7241
krsmith@charlottenc.gov

Edmund H. Driggs
704-432-7077
ed@eddriggs.com

And don't forget to join us on February 23, at 6:30 p.m., at the Charlotte City Council meeting (Charlotte Mecklenburg Gov't Center, 600 E. Fourth Street) to show your support for equality for all Charlotteans.

THINGS TO KNOW:

The purpose of these updates is to safeguard the opportunity of all Charlotteans to be free from all forms of arbitrary discrimination, including discrimination based on real or perceived race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, sex, gender identity, gender expression, religion, sexual orientation, disability, marital or family status.

The updated non-discrimination ordinances would protect people from arbitrary discrimination in public accommodations, commercial contracting and passenger vehicles for hire.

It is important to understand that more than 200 cities in states across the United States— like Kansas City, MO, Gainesville, FL and Kalamazoo, MI— have already passed and successfully implemented these ordinances, with no increase in public safety incidents. Charlotte is one of only 3 of the nation’s 20 largest cities that does not have inclusive non-discrimination ordinances protecting LGBT people in public accommodations and fair housing.

Updated non-discrimination ordinances will strengthen the community by fostering an atmosphere of respect and inclusivity. It will send the message that Charlotte is a welcoming place to live, work, and raise a family.

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North Carolina’s planned ‘religious freedom’ bills waste time, money on unfairness

By Chris Sgro on 01/23/2015 @ 10:00 AM

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On the same day that legislators returned for their 2015 session, there was an ominous announcement.

Rep. Paul "Skip" Stam, one of the leading anti-LGBT voices in our legislature, told reporters that on January 28th there would be a legislative briefing on so-called "religious freedom" legislation.

We've seen these "turn away the gays" bills in other states -- but the one suggested in North Carolina could be much worse. This legislation could allow our state officials to decline services to the LGBT community.

That's why we need your help.

Take a moment to check out my op-ed in the News & Observer previewing this legislation, its potential impact, and why we'll be fighting any "license to discriminate" with everything we've got.

As I said in the piece, when public servants can deny any North Carolinians service, that’s not religious freedom, that's discrimination, plain and simple. And we must be ready for whatever comes next week.

Until then, please share this op-ed on Facebook and Twitter and spread the word about what this legislation could mean for our state.

And don't forget to check your email daily for more ways to get involved both inside and outside of the North Carolina General Assembly. We'll be in touch next week.

TAKE ACTION: We also need to know where Gov. McCrory stands on this religious refusal bill. Send him a message demanding he veto this legislation if it comes across his desk. We've made it easy.

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What It's Costing States to Fight Marriage Equality

By Jen Jones on 01/13/2015 @ 10:00 AM

The Progressive Pulse's Sharon McCloskey shares the hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars paid -- and millions still pending -- for states to defend unconstitutional bans on the freedom to marry.

As same-sex marriage bans continue to fall in the courts, states on the losing side of the battle are finding themselves on the hook for attorneys’ fees incurred by proponents of marriage equality, to the tune of more than $800,000 thus far, according to Zoe Tillman in this National Law Journal post.

And requests for millions more are still pending in cases making their way through the appellate courts, Tillman notes.

Learn more at here.

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(Source: The National Law Journal)

CLICK HERE to tell North Carolina's leaders to end their own costly appeal.

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Honoring World AIDS Day

By Jen Jones on 12/01/2014 @ 10:00 AM

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Today is December 1, 2014 -- World AIDS Day -- a global recognition for the continuous fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic. On this day each year, we offer our support to those who are living with HIV and honor those who are no longer with us.

First started in 1988, World AIDS Day was the first health day to be recognized globally. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2013, there are approximately 35 million people around the world with HIV, half of whom are women and 10% are children under the age of 15. It is estimated that more than one million people in the U.S. are living with HIV. In 2012, 1.9 million people lost their lives to AIDS-related illnesses, bringing the total to more than 35 million lives lost.

Education, preventative practices and health screenings are critical when it comes to stopping the spread of the disease – almost 1 in 6 unaware they are infected. Through education and outreach efforts and scientific advances that number, along with the number of transmittal cases, are dwindling.

Nevertheless, 36,500 people live with HIV/AIDS in North Carolina.

Today, we honor those who we’ve lost to HIV/AIDS and continue our fight for accessible and inclusive care by partnering with our friends at the North Carolina AIDS Action Network to make sure our state leaders understand the impact of HIV/AIDS on constituents across the state.

TAKE ACTION: Remind our returning legislators that their support on this issue is vital.

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We Remember: Transgender Day of Remembrance

By Jen Jones on 11/19/2014 @ 10:00 AM

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On November 20, the state will come together to remember transgender individuals lost to violence in 2014.

Join Equality NC and our partners as we participate in the 2014 Transgender Day of Remembrance, Thursday, November 20.

This year, Equality NC is partnering with many amazing groups, including the Transgender Initiative of the LGBT Center of Raleigh and LGBTQ Center of Durham, Human Rights Campaign of North Carolina, Time Out Youth, ENC Foothills and others, to sponsor events that commemorate TDoR, memorialize those we've lost, and recommit to our collective pledge to never stop fighting for transgender equality in North Carolina and beyond.

North Carolina's Transgender Day of Remembrance is a statewide effort, also including events hosted by our affiliate ENC Foothills in Hickory, by our friends at Time Out Youth in Charlotte, and an annual event in Greensboro.

TRIANGLE VIGIL (Durham) - RSVP

WHAT: TDoR Candlelight Vigil
WHERE: CCB Plaza (115 Market St., Durham, NC 27701)
WHEN: Events begin at 6 p.m.

WESTERN NC VIGIL (Hickory) - RSVP

WHAT: TDoR Candlelight Vigil
WHERE: Belk Centrum Theatre (625 7th Avenue NE, Hickory, NC 28601)
WHEN: Events begin at 6:30 p.m.

TRIAD VIGIL (Greensboro)

WHAT: TDoR Candlelight Vigil
WHERE: 1821 Lendew St., Greensboro, NC 27408
WHEN: Events begin at 7 p.m.

CHARLOTTE AREA VIGIL (Charlotte) - RSVP

WHAT: TDoR Candlelight Vigil
WHERE: Time Out Youth (2320 N Davidson St Unit A, Charlotte, North Carolina 28205)
WHEN: Events begin at 7 p.m.

No matter who you are or where you live, please honor our Transgender Day of Remembrance, on November 20, by attending an event near you (#TDoR).

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Pittenger: OK to fire gays

By Jen Jones on 09/18/2014 @ 11:00 AM

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An editorial from yesterday's Charlotte Observer reminded me of some pretty hateful statements from N.C. Congressman Robert Pittenger (as well as some harsh realities for our gay and transgender workers):

Is it OK for a company to fire someone solely because he is gay? U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger of Charlotte thinks so. It’s one of “the freedoms we enjoy” as Americans, he says. Private employers should have the freedom to discriminate against employees based on their sexual orientation, Pittenger says, and government shouldn’t take that ability away.

Read more of The Charlotte Observer editorial here.

Not only does Pittenger think everyone should be able to fire gay people for being gay, comparing it at a recent town hall to the ability to smoke at the workplace, but the former businessman believes we're already protected from being fired.

Newsflash, Congressman: North Carolinians who are gay and transgender can be fired simply for being gay or transgender. They join LGBT Americans in 29 states without workplace protections.

It's time to take action. Donate $29 dollars today to Equality NC for every state that still needs protections from "bad apple bosses" like Rep. Robert Pittenger.

When you do, you'll be investing in an organization that's been working tirelessly for decades to protect gay and transgender North Carolinians in the workplace...and the only organization focused on passing these protections statewide at the North Carolina legislature in 2015.

With your support today, we'll be better able to do our job of bringing those workplace protections home as soon as possible. Because we know not everyone discriminates against LGBT people in the workplace -- but we need your help right now to stop the bad apple bosses who do. Donate now:

equalitync.org/action/donate/

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Charlotte Observer: LGBT Workplace Protections "Not a Partisan Issue"

By Jen Jones on 09/16/2014 @ 11:00 AM

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On Tuesday, September 16, 2014, The Charlotte Observer editorial board took on recent comments by U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger of Charlotte who compared firing gays to the ability to smoke in the workplace, by calling on the state legislature to update current policies to protect gay and transgender workers.

In its "Our View" section, the editorial board of North Carolina's most circulated newspaper told its readers on Tuesday, "Most of North Carolina’s companies get it; discriminating based on sexual orientation threatens a business’ ability to attract and retain the best talent. Yet North Carolina is one of 29 states that allow gay workers to be fired for that reason alone."

It added, "The legislature, backed by business and a majority of the public, should change that next session. Equal opportunity, after all, is really not a partisan issue."

Read more of The Charlotte Observer editorial here.

For almost a decade Equality NC has led the charge to update current non-discrimination policies to include protections for gay and transgender employees. The organization will take up the effort again during the 2015 legislative session.

TAKE ACTION: Sign the Petition | Support the Freedom to Work in North Carolina

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Message Delivered!

By Jen Jones on 08/28/2014 @ 11:00 AM

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Yesterday we delivered over 10,000 petitions demanding North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory stop defending our state's marriage ban -- more signatures than any petition drive of its kind before it, in any other state.

You answered the call. You took action. You signed on for Equality in record numbers.

The media smelled a story. And throughout the day, they demanded to know where Gov. McCrory stood on allowing the freedom to marry in North Carolina.

By the end of the day, he conceded, "We're going to let the process work. During that process we ought to have a stay to allow the current law to remain in place, but this is going to the Supreme Court for all the states."

We're still looking for clarity from our governor. In the meantime, we won't sit idly by and wait. And we hope you won't either.

Donate $10 today and help us keep delivering the powerful message of fairness for all families.

There's plenty of work to do to prepare North Carolina for marriage and beyond, including getting all of us engaged in protecting our workers, our livelihoods, our students, our children, our families, our health, and our safety.

And we're readying to deliver this too. But we need your help to keep the momentum going.

Please, if you were ever going to - invest in Equality now:

equalitync.org/action/donate/

I promise - we won't stop fighting for Equality until the message is finally received.

Thanks for standing with us yesterday, today, and always,

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Everyone Deserves the Freedom to Marry

By Rep. Grier Martin on 08/26/2014 @ 11:00 AM

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Rep. Grier Martin

Rep. Grier Martin is a veteran of the war in Afghanistan and a member of the N.C. General Assembly representing the state's 34th House District. He and his wife Louise live in Raleigh. They believe every North Carolinian deserves the freedom to marry. Here's why.

Experience is the preeminent teacher in life. When you decide to jump out of a perfectly good airplane, a simulator can only tell you so much about the experience, it is the first jump that truly teaches you what to expect. The same is true when you take the jump and have your first child. Your parents and books can provide advice, but it sleepless nights and countless visits to the pediatrician with umpteen questions that help you understand what it is to truly be a parent.

The recent 4th Circuit Court decision in Bostic v. Schaefer stated, “The choice of whether and whom to marry is an intensely personal decision that alters the course of an individual’s life. Denying same-sex couples this choice prohibits them from participating fully in our society, which is precisely the type of segregation that the Fourteenth Amendment cannot countenance.”

My decision to marry was one of the most personal, and important, decision of my life up to that point, as it was the same for my wife. All other decisions that we have made since — whether joining the military, running for elective office, joining the board of community organizations — were driven by our shared desire to serve and build a more equitable North Carolina that works for all of our citizens.

My decision to marry was based on love.

After my wife, Louise, and I were married, experience taught us much about what makes a committed, faithful union, as well as what that union meant for both of our lives. With that knowledge and understanding, we both understand more deeply than ever that our friends who were gay had unions that were as meaningful and committed as ours. It begged the question — when their love was equal to ours, why were they being denied the same legal rights that we had only because we happened to be born straight?

After 9/11, I volunteered for active duty with the Army and served as a paratrooper out of a sense of duty to our country and our freedom. While in the service I met men and women who were willing to die to protect our freedoms — including the freedom to marry — who were unable to have the full range of freedoms that others held dear. This struck my wife and I as deeply unfair. Rarely has this been more evident than in the case of Tracy Dice Johnson, who lost her partner, Donna, to a suicide bomber in Afghanistan, and then was denied death benefits because she lived in North Carolina. While the case was ultimately decided in favor of Tracy, imagine the trauma of having to add concern over benefits on top of an unimaginable loss.

The birth of our daughter, Sara, was ultimately the pivotal moment in how we considered service to our community and the impact that we are trying to have on the future of our state. As do all parents, we began to ask ourselves what kind of world would we leave for Sara and her friends. We hope to see schools that provide more opportunity for each student, universities that are accessible to students from every walk of life, and drinking water free of hazardous chemicals. But my wife and I also believe that it is important that we foster a society that respects the love and commitment of all couples. After all, our children will be looking back at the decisions that we make with the same skeptical eye that we once cast on our own parents and the decisions that they made during the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s.

On behalf of my family, friends, and my fellow veterans, and for my daughter and her friends, I applaud the Bostic v. Schaefer decision and Attorney General Cooper’s decision to no longer defend the ruling--and urge the Legislature and Governor to follow the lead of the Attorney General in acknowledging that no reasonable legal defense of the misguided “Amendment One” remains following the ruling.

After all, everyone deserves the right to make the personal decision to love — and have the same freedoms and protections as their neighbors, friends, and family.

--Rep. Grier Martin, Raleigh, N.C.

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What Will Make You Act Now?

By Jen Jones on 08/13/2014 @ 07:00 AM

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TAKE ACTION: Tell Gov. McCrory - All Families Deserve Respect. Stop Defending Marriage Discrimination. Stop Defending Amendment One.

Sometimes it's hard to know what will inspire people to take action.

But North Carolina's Senator Norm Sanderson made one thing clear: we need to act right now.

Last Friday, Sanderson told a North Carolina crowd that plans are in place to impeach Attorney General Roy Cooper because he opposes marriage inequality. You read that right: supporting equality for all North Carolinians is now considered an impeachable offense. Enough is enough.

Head to our website, sign the petition, and join thousands of North Carolinians who are asking Gov. McCrory to return our state to the right side of history by dropping any defense of our state's marriage equality ban. It takes 30 seconds. And it's that easy.

No matter where you live in North Carolina, we'll hand deliver your message to the Governor.

One click over + your signature will send a strong message to our state leaders that not one of our taxpayer dollars should go toward discriminating against North Carolinians, including those who support, and would benefit from, marriage equality.

Sometimes it's really that easy to take action. So what are you waiting for? Head over to our website, sign the petition, and show your support for equality in North Carolina. Really, we can't tell you how much we'll appreciate it -- alongside tens of thousands of grateful North Carolina couples who are waiting for their chance at equality.

Our goal is to deliver 10,000 signatures in two weeks. So, once you've signed, please forward to 10 friends and encourage them to join North Carolina's movement for marriage.

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INVEST NOW: Get Your State of Equality Tank

By Jen Jones on 08/07/2014 @ 09:00 AM

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You can't fight for equality without a tank...top. Once you've invested in equality, you'll bring us [that] much closer to our goal of raising $10,000 during our 4th Circuit #MarriageMoneybomb *and* turning our recent marriage momentum into a lasting movement for equality in North Carolina.

Become a $10 or more Equality NC monthly sustainer right now and we'll send you our limited edition "State of Equality" tank top.

All you have to do is click here, enter your name, contact information, and payment information, and click "once a month" on a $10 (or more) sustaining donation to get the tank of the summer (only available *this summer).

Don't forget to tell us your favorite size (either S, M, L, XL, 2XL) and color (cranberry, evergreen, indigo, coffee, gray) by checking the "in honor of" box and entering that very important information in the "name" box.

Then click "DONATE." It's that easy.

Once you've invested in equality, you'll bring us [that] much closer to our goal of raising $10,000 during our 4th Circuit #MarriageMoneybomb *and* turning our recent marriage momentum into a lasting movement for equality in North Carolina.

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CALL FOR VOLUNTEERS: 2014 Charlotte PRIDE

By Ben Church on 08/06/2014 @ 09:00 AM

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Charlotte PRIDE is THE BIGGEST PRIDE in the Carolinas. With an expected attendance of over 100,000 participants, we know you don’t want to miss this fun-filled event.

And what better way to enjoy PRIDE, than to volunteer with Equality NC, YOUR Statewide LGBT advocacy organization in the center of the action at the Equality NC PRIDE Pavillion.

We know your time is valuable. And we promise, volunteering with Equality NC is a win-win experience:

You'll have the best time making new friends, looking great in your FREE "State of Equality" t-shirt, all while giving your time to the only organization dedicated to fighting for rights and justice for all LGBT North Carolinians.

TO VOLUNTEER, CONTACT: Email Ben at Ben@equalitync.org

WHAT: Charlotte PRIDE 2014

WHEN: Saturday August 16, and/or Sunday, August 17

WHERE: In Uptown | S Tryon St. Between 3rd & Stonewall | Charlotte, NC

CLICK HERE for more information about 2014 Charlotte PRIDE.

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