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Kleinschmidt is off to the capital for LGBT Pride Month

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Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt speaks to fellow members of the Chapel Hill Town Council at a meeting on May 11.

Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt has spent more than two decades as an activist for civil rights, even marching on Washington, D.C., in support of various issues.

This week he’ll be returning, but in a very different setting.

On Friday, Kleinschmidt will be joining President Barack Obama and other leaders from across the country at the White House for a reception in honor of Pride Month.

The LGBT community unofficially recognizes June as Pride Month to commemorate the anniversary of the 1969 raid of the Stonewall Inn. The raid is considered the defining moment that started the modern LGBT rights movement­.

Bill Clinton was the first president to declare Pride Month in 2000, and Obama has recognized the celebration each year he’s been in office.

Kleinschmidt, Chapel Hill’s first openly gay mayor, said this year is particularly special because for the first time in history, a U.S. president has supported the legalization of same-sex marriage while in office.

“It’s a point in time that we will never forget,” he said.

At the reception, Kleinschmidt said he hopes to speak with other leaders from across the country to see how they are dealing with LGBT issues in their communities.

He said North Carolina suffered a great disappointment with the recent passage of Amendment One but that it’s important to continue moving forward.

Terri Phoenix, director of UNC’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Center, said the biggest issues the community and the state face are employment protection, health care access, relationship recognition by the government, cultural competency and harassment.

Phoenix said Kleinschmidt’s desire to give back to the town and UNC, and his visibility as an advocate have made him tremendously valuable to the community.

Phoenix said Kleinschmidt has worked with the LGBTQ Center, allowing students to shadow him at work and speaking at Lavender Graduation — a commencement ceremony for sexuality studies minors and members of UNC’s gay community.

“I have tremendous respect for him,” Phoenix said.

Chapel Hill Town Council member Lee Storrow — who is also openly gay — said the Chapel Hill community is fortunate to have Kleinschmidt’s forward-thinking ideas.

“I think after the passage of Amendment One, it’s a really discouraging time to be a gay North Carolinian,” Storrow said.

“I think Mark has really been vocally supportive of LGBT rights and has been an advocate in our community.”

Kleinschmidt said Chapel Hill has a long history of being a leader in the state for the civil rights for all people.

“It’s a part of our culture,” he said.

Contact the City Editor at city@dailytarheel.com.

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