When North Carolina saw marriage equality come to the state in October 2014, the Carrboro Board of Aldermen declared Oct. 10 Marriage Equality Day.
“Carrboro has been a leader in North Carolina in LGBTQ equality since the 90s,” said Damon Seils, member of the Carrboro Board of Aldermen.
In its inaugural year, the day was celebrated with gusto following the overturn of the state's Amendment 1. But this year it passed by as a reminder of the important day, without celebration.
“We will continue to recognize this date on a yearly basis in Carrboro, and may consider doing something additional on that date in the future," Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle said in an email. "However, while Oct. 10, 2014 was a landmark day for marriage equality in North Carolina, marriage (equality) is something that the town supports every day of the year."
But this landmark day was unheard of by many Carrboro and Chapel Hill residents.
According to a survey conducted for the purpose of this story, only 22 out of 100 surveyed members of the Chapel Hill and Carrboro community knew about Marriage Equality Day. Of the people surveyed, 71 considered themselves to be part of the LGBTQ community or an ally of the community.
Awareness was only one issue to UNC student and LGBTQ member Frank Carber.
Carber said he believes the problem is more general — concerning the overall presence of the LGBTQ community on campus.
He said he would like to see more professors vocalizing support instead of having mainly social LGBTQ events. Carber also said if professors share their sexual orientation as being a part of who they are, it can open up bigger discussions.
“I think that (having others know) it’s more than just sex is empowering,” he said.
To Seils, helping LGBTQ community members know they are supported and that they feel safe is the most important issue.
“I don’t want to just be tolerated,” he said. “I don’t think that the LGBTQ community wants to be tolerated. We’re looking to feel safe and we’re looking to have our needs looked after.”
Seils said schools have a responsibility to teach students about equity, not tolerance.
However, a majority of respondents in the survey did not know where the LGBTQ Center on UNC's campus is located — only 39 percent did know.
Carber said he has never been to the center and does not know what services are offered.
Seils and Carber both agreed there is room for improvement for awareness of the LGBTQ community's needs in Chapel Hill.
“Carrboro and Chapel Hill, compared to many places, provide a supportive and nurturing environment, but that doesn’t mean we have done everything we can do,” Seils said.
Carber acknowledged that the LGBTQ community also has room for growth, saying that most of the events he has been aware of have not necessarily been inclusive of the entire community.
“Even if you are a minority, it doesn’t mean you are exempt from hurting others,” he said.
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