As I reflect on the positives that have happened in the LGBTQ+ community, I am constantly reminded of the work that still needs to be done. Marriage equality is a huge win. However, knowing that marriage equality was only granted by the US Supreme Court and flatly defeated by North Carolina voters is somewhat troubling. But, truth be told, a win is a win and my husband and I are grateful for it! There is still a ways to go when it comes to true equality for LGBTQ+ North Carolinians.

First, a non-discrimination law protecting the LGBTQ+ community needs to be adopted. Only protecting individuals that are working in private employment situations is simply not enough. I find it appalling that the gay community is marginalized by not being allowed to sue for discrimination based on sexual orientation or identity. I feel that the state legislature has stepped over the line by prohibiting local communities from enacting non-discrimination laws outside of public employment. North Carolina is one of only three states that prohibits this practice.

Second, a ban on conversion therapy must be adopted. This harmful and homophobic practice is unacceptable. I cannot fathom that it is legal in North Carolina to place the most vulnerable of individuals into a therapy program to “change” their sexual identity. Being a young gay person is confusing enough. However, to know that people want to change who you are must be incredibly frightening.

Finally, it is time for North Carolina to add LGBTQ+ persons to list of people protected by hate crimes. Currently, a person attacked solely based on their sexual orientation or identity must hope that federal prosecutors will pursue charges. There are no state protections in place. This raises so many concerns. A North Carolinian who has been the victim of an anti-gay hate crime can only pursue justice under the Matthew Shepard Act. Unfortunately, this requires coordination between state and local authorities who must then work with the FBI. With no state-wide protections in place members of the LGBTQ+ community will continue to face fear, prejudice and violence in their daily lives.