Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt: Why You Shouldn’t Boycott North Carolina
The mayor of Chapel Hill, Mark Kleinschmidt (who is openly gay), was confident that his town would turn back Amendment One on May 8. It did, by a whopping 86 percent to 14 percent, but he watched as we all did here as county after rural county results came in, with more voters turning out on the side of bigotry and ignorance that evening. Many called for a boycott of the state as a result of the 21 point defeat at the polls. Kleinschmidt took to Huff Post to make the case for why people should not economically abandon the state.
While I had hoped that we would been the first state in the country to defeat a marriage amendment, I remain extremely proud to have stood with an extraordinary group of activists, elected officials, businesses, and families who worked diligently against it these last eight months. When your amendments passed, we cried with you. When your marriage laws were enacted, we celebrated with you. Now, while North Carolina’s LGBT community is suffering from this difficult loss, we deserve the same support and solidarity we provided you; we do not deserve your enmity.
Across North Carolina, our cities, our centers of higher education, and our mountain and Outer Banks vacation destinations all rejected this amendment.
And he’s right. The counties where many of you spend your hard-earned money if you come to North Carolina are the ones that turned it back solidly: Buncombe, Chatham, Dare, Durham, Mecklenburg, Orange, Wake, and Watauga.
These counties include the cities of Asheville, Pittsboro, Cape Hatteras, Durham, Charlotte, Chapel Hill, Raleigh, and Boone. These eight counties represent about 28 percent of the state’s population and are centers of education, the arts, business innovation, technology, and tourism. Even in counties where the amendment passed, like Guilford, New Hanover, and Forsyth, their county seats — Greensboro, Wilmington, and Winston-Salem — soundly defeated it. Now, more than ever, the North Carolina LGBT community needs to know from you that the work we’ve done fighting this amendment and creating these wonderful places is acknowledged by our friends from elsewhere.
When I interviewed Mark back in 2009, he explained why North Carolina is different from many Southern states, particularly in regards to race relations and civil rights:
I talk about how North Carolina is different than what a lot of people believe is true about the South. I don’t defend Georgia, Mississippi, and Alabama and South Carolina, but we aren’t any of those places. We never have been. As the South moved into the ’50s, ’60s, and civil rights issues began to dominate the American culture, North Carolina was one of the leading states in helping move it forward. We had leaders that had already come of age with progressive values helping to move the state, like Frank Porter Graham, Terry Sanford. And none of them did everything that we would have liked them to have done, but we made enormous progress in ways the states outside of the South only wish they could have made.
While they further segregated themselves, our state has taken up the difficult challenge of true integration. And I think we are constantly self-acknowledging that we have not always been successful; it’s a continuous process – and this is a state that gives birth to that kind of politics, and we should be proud of it. People need to reevaluate what they think of North Carolina. It’s not a surprise to me that North Carolina had the first openly gay elected official [in the South – Joe Herzenberg, elected to the Chapel Hill town council in 1987]. Other states don’t share that with Chapel Hill. There are very few places like this.
And the coalition building that occurred during the battle to defeat Amendment One was multi-racial, multi-faith and notably more true vision of progressive leadership that should be lauded — the NC NAACP was only the second chapter in the country to come out against a marriage discrimination amendment (the other was California’s). And the results of that work over the years showed in the May vote. As journalist Barry Yeoman pointed out:
Voters in majority-black precincts rejected the measure: Charlotte (52 percent), Raleigh (51 percent), Greensboro (54 percent), Winston-Salem (55 percent), and Durham (65 percent). Durham’s results were dramatic: Not a single majority-black precinct supported the amendment. Several crushed it by margins of 3-to-1 and even 4-to-1.
So Mark Kleinschmidt’s point of view — that to boycott North Carolina is to punish those working for positive change, is based on the desire to continue the progress being made — and your help is needed:
Our LGBT community wants what everyone wants: equal protection under the law. Without protections, our rights to visit our loved ones in the hospital, protect our children, and manage our personal assets are at risk, and in some cases have led to suffering and traumatic outcomes. We need your support to convince the rest of North Carolina that these issues are important and that equality is the only solution.
What is my take? I can easily see Mayor Kleinschmidt’s point-of-view — I live in Durham, where many private businesses and institutions have same-sex spousal equivalent benefits and employment non-discrimination protections. They need to offer them to be competitive; the state is behind the curve on this and will see the mistake of this amendment in short order regardless when it comes to recruiting and retaining talent. What the amendment won’t do is put any of who do have the protections back in the closet.
However, I do understand why people would want to keep their hard-earned cash out of NC. If so, folks need to remember to keep wallets closed regarding ALL states with an amendment — over 30 promote discrimination in this manner — so that’s a lot of territory to avoid. If you do choose to boycott, keep a handy list of all of the states not to do business with — online and offline — and make sure to be diligent and consistent. Here you go: