The event featured a two-and-a-half-mile parade of people advocating for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality and protesting North Carolina’s gay marriage ban — known as Amendment One — as well as speeches by LGBT community leaders.
Jennifer Rudinger, executive director of the state’s American Civil Liberties Union and the keynote speaker, said public opinion is continuing to move in favor of same-sex marriage.
“What a difference a year makes,” she said. “But we are far from done.”
LGBT rights in the workplace are another prominent debate nationwide. North Carolina is one of 29 states that doesn’t prohibit workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Durham resident Terri Black, who has come to the past five parades, said as a recruiter she feels strongly about LGBT workers’ rights.
“It’s important that people feel comfortable and valuable in the workplace,” she said. “We are at our best when there’s no fear.”
Trevor Oxendine of Lumberton said he recently quit his job after facing discrimination for his sexuality. Oxendine declined to give the name of his former employer.
Fayetteville resident Olivia Asner said as a transgender woman, she felt uncomfortable filling out her job application.
“On the application, it only says male and female, so what did I put? What am I supposed to say?” she said.
Asner said events like the parade are important for uniting the LGBT community.
Rudinger said during her speech that there are four pending challenges to North Carolina’s gay marriage ban. A July decision by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, whose jurisdiction includes North Carolina, deemed Virginia’s ban unconstitutional, though that ruling has been put on hold by the U.S. Supreme Court.
But Rudinger said it is widely expected that the Court will hear one of five possible gay marriage cases in the 2014-15 term.
If the justices decide not to hear any of the cases, she said, the 4th Circuit’s ruling will stand.
“Either way, we are confident that by the time we are back here next September, we’ll all have much more good news,” she said. “There’s a good chance Amendment One will be ancient history.”
But Miguel Tantas thinks differently.
Standing to the side of the parade and waving a Bible, Tantas said his religious beliefs prevent him from supporting LGBT rights.
“They think we’re here out of hatred, but we’re not,” he said.
Lee Storrow, a Chapel Hill Town Council member and executive director of the North Carolina AIDS Action Network, spoke on issues of LGBT health care in the state.
Citing a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study, Storrow said less than half of gay and bisexual men living with HIV in the United States receive adequate health coverage — and in North Carolina, that number is even smaller.
“When it comes to health care, we all have a right to be covered,” he said. “Our community can’t move backwards on issues of gay rights.”