Forty years ago, the world looked remarkably different for LGBTQ people. Our community was on the brink of the AIDS crisis -- an epidemic that would wipe out a generation of leaders, creators, thinkers and innovators, many of them in the prime of their lives. Rights and protections for LGBTQ folks were nonexistent. People of color had barely achieved equal legal recognition under the eyes of the law.
In 1979, seven individuals with varying backgrounds came together to form the North Carolina Human Rights Fund with the goal of creating a more just and equitable world for folks facing threats to life and safety from their government and communities. The organization’s primary focus was to offer legal services to LGBTQ folks being prosecuted under the Crimes Against Nature Law.
It was a remarkably bold and brave move and today’s world looks radically different for many members of the LGBTQ community, at least in part due to the work of these seven founders. The group also worked to foster local organizations across the state, and help fund the first NC Pride marches. In the late eighties, the focus shifted to providing education on lesbian and gay issues. The North Carolina Human Rights Fund went on to become today what we call Equality NC Foundation.
Separately, in 1990 a group of folks founded the NC Pride PAC in the wake of LGBTQ mobilization surrounding the 1990 Jesse Helms-Harvey Gantt Race for U.S. Senate. This Political Action Committee sought to use that energy to affect change at the state level. Since then, the group has been active in state legislative races and other races of statewide importance.
In 2002, the Board agreed that it was time to form a parent organization to link the PAC and the Foundation, and to manage the group's growing lobbying and advocacy work. This organization is Equality North Carolina as you know it today, and we couldn’t be prouder of the work of countless activists, organizers and community leaders over the years who brought this incarnation of ENC into fruition.