by Bob Geary
WRAL is reportingthat Jim Neal, a candidate for U.S. Senate in the 2008 Democratic primary, was one of three pro-gay rights demonstrators arrested today at the General Assembly. They went on the House floor while the chamber was in session and called for "liberty and justice for all" — whereupon they were removed.
Neal was among the speakers at a rally earlier outside the legislative building. The rally was sponsored by a California-based group called Get Equal with a new N.C. state chapter. (The rally started late and I needed to leave, so I didn't hear Neal speak. About 200 people attended.)
[Update, 7:20 p.m.: Get Equal NC just issued a press release. I've copied it below.]
Equality NC members were also on hand distributing literature in opposition to the proposed DOMA constitutional amendment — Senate Bill 106/House Bill 777. The amendment wouldn't change existing N.C. law, but it would write prejudice into the state constitution — if the voters approve it. But first, three-fifths of the members of both houses of the General Assembly must vote for it. (Gov. Bev Perdue cannot veto a proposed constitutional amendment.)
I see on ENC's website that its executive director, Ian Palmquist, tweeted something about today's action:
"While we share the protesters' passion for equal rights, we cannot condone today's disruption of the House session."
According to the General Assembly's website and ENC, Senate Bill 106 has 23 sponsors, all Republicans. In the Senate, 30 our of the total 50 votes would be needed for approval. House Bill 777, which is nearly identical, has 66 sponsors, 60 Republicans and six Democrats. In the House, 72 votes out of the total 120 would be needed for approval.
From Get Equal NC:
Local North Carolina LGBT Activists Arrested at State Capitol
2008 U.S Senate Candidate Jim Neal, Angel Chandler, and Mary Counce and Disrupt Legislative Session in Protest of Anti-Gay Bill
RALEIGH, NC - Following GetEQUAL NC’s — a direct action lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization; "Rally in Raleigh" today — an event to protest the anti-gay Senate Bill 106 — local gay activists were arrested for disrupting the legislative session in progress when they demanded full legal recognition for LGBT North Carolinians. Activists included Angel Chandler of GetEQUAL NC, the North Carolina chapter of the national organization GetEQUAL, Chandler's partner, Mary Counce; and 2008 U.S. Senate candidate James Neal. Shortly after entering the chamber, the activists began chanting "Liberty and Justice for All in North Carolina." The activists were immediately taken into custody by police and are currently being booked and charged with “disorderly conduct and trespassing”.
Earlier in the afternoon, hundreds of North Carolinians attended the "Rally in Raleigh" organized by GetEQUAL NC and local activist Jonathan Green. The rally focused on SB106, the discriminatory bill that would put an amendment on the 2012 ballot that would prevent private businesses and municipalities in NC from offering domestic partnership insurance benefits, and invalidate Domestic Partnership Registries in the three cities in NC that offer them (Chapel Hill, Asheville and Carrboro). The authors of the bill included North Carolina State Senators James Forrester, Jerry W. Tillman, and Dan Soucek.
"Rally in Raleigh" Speakers included:
• Cecil Bothwell, Asheville City Councilman, author, & US Congressional Candidate for NC 11th District 2012
• Janet Owen, Co-Chair Interfaith Voice of Winston-Salem
• Chelsea Sayre, GetEQUAL NC
• James Neal, Businessman and openly gay 2008 Democratic primary candidate for U.S. Senate
• Pam Spaulding, Pam’s House Blend
• Jonathan Green, Sexuality And Gender Alliance
• Angel Chandler, GetEQUAL NC
GetEQUAL's Executive Director, Robin McGehee, responded to the arrests, "GetEQUAL issued a call to the President today to stand up for full LGBT equality, and we're proud to support LGBT North Carolinians in issuing the same call to their state elected officials. As North Carolina gears up to host the Democratic National Convention next year, we hope that the state will be moving toward fully recognizing the dignity and equality of LGBT North Carolinians, rather than trying to further enshrine discrimination in the state constitution. North Carolina residents deserve better than the legalized discrimination that this bill promises."
Updates on the condition, charges, and penalties assessed to the three activists will be available via GetEQUAL's social networks (see below) and via GetEQUAL NC's website, www.getequalnc.org.
GetEQUAL is a national, direct action lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization. Emphasizing direct action and people power, the mission of GetEQUAL is to empower the LGBT community and its allies to take action to demand full legal and social equality, and to hold accountable those who stand in the way. For more information on GetEQUAL, please visit: http://www.getequal.org. You can follow GetEQUAL on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/getequal, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/GetEQUAL, or on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/getequal.