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Openly LGBTQ politicians come to speak in panel at UNC

The panel of representatives will discuss their time in office and their experiences since then at 4 p.m. in the FedEx Global Education Center.

Andrew Reynolds, a director of the research initiative, said he thinks people who attend will have a thought-provoking experience.

“Really the purpose is to get a perspective from the people themselves about the state of play for LGBTQ Tar Heels,” he said.

“The officials are a very inspiring group of people, people who have overcome many hurdles to get to where they are today and people who are great role models for North Carolina, so I think the nice thing is hearing their inspiring stories about the sort of activity they’ve been responsible for to date in their local communities.”

Reynolds said a similar event was held two years ago, but more speakers will attend this year. He said he hopes the panel motivates people to become more aware and inspired to act regarding LGBTQ issues.

“We’re trying to understand better the reality of LGBTQ lives in North Carolina, as well as what we can do to bring around more equality in the state,” he said. “So this event is part of our goal to understand how people are elected, what they do once they’re elected and how they change hearts and minds once they’re in office.”

Damon Seils, a member of Carrboro’s Board of Aldermen who helped organize the event with Reynolds, said the event will take a conversational form.

“Along with a moderator — Steven Petrow from the Washington Post — who is going to be there to moderate the discussion, we’ll be talking about the status of many LGBTQ factors in North Carolina,” Seils said. “And at the end, there will be a reception for folks to meet the people and talk with us one on one.”

Seils said he is particularly looking forward to discussing the recent events surrounding House Bill 2.

“As representative Deb Butler previously noted, LGBTQ people were not included in the conversation about the repeal of House Bill 2, and it’ll be important for us to all be in the same room together talking about what that means for us as community and where we go from here,” he said.

Rep. Butler, D-New Hanover, who will be one of the event’s panelists, said she hopes to widen the perspectives of young people in attendance by sharing her experience as an openly LGBTQ representative.

“I think it’s important that we as politicians serve as role models within our community and be visible and fearless for particularly the young people in the room,” she said. “Being gay has never been something I was ashamed of in any way and I feel like it’s an obligation to inspire folks where I can.”

Butler said she intends to share part of the procedure through which HB2 was partially repealed.

“The timing is particularly interesting because we have just witnessed the repeal of HB2 and I know there are a lot of disappointed activists, myself included, in the way that it evolved,” she said.

“But I want to explain it in as much detail as I can, so people can understand that this is at least a step in the right direction, which bodes well for the future.”

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