Breakfast with Governor Roy Cooper – Part 2 of 2: Diversity and LGBT

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper speaking at the April 6th Triangle Business Journal “Power Breakfast.” (PHOTO: Triangle Business Journal)

The Triangle Business Journal, the very well-read and respected business weekly newspaper for the Raleigh / Durham / Chapel Hill area of North Carolina holds a quarterly “Power Breakfast” featuring an area senior leader with a few hundred local business leaders. The Spring 2017 breakfast held April 6, 2017 featured the newly elected NC Governor Roy Cooper. Governor Cooper is quite unique as he was the first challenger to defeat a sitting governor in our state since 1850!

Part 1 of this blog (link) provides a general overview of Governor Cooper’s remarks. And since I am a diversity and career development consultant with a deep expertise in the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) workplace and marketplace, this entry will expand on how the Governor addressed diversity and more specifically HB2 and the LGBT community.

Much of the focus was on the unpopular HB2 law passed last Spring which dictated the bathroom transgender people need to use in public venues, curtailed the ability of cities and counties to pass their own non-discrimination ordinances, and more. A few days before the breakfast, a compromise repeal of HB2 was passed and signed by the Governor, which removed the transgender bathroom usage provision, but disallows cities and municipalities from adding anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people before 2020. (Link to my most recent blog about HB2 and to my letter to the Raleigh News and Observer about the inadequacy of the compromise bill.)

NC’s unpopular HB2 law, a subject of protests all over the state, was a major part of Governor Cooper’s remarks. (Photos courtesy of the Charlotte and Raleigh News and Observer)

Here are the points that Governor Cooper made about diversity in general and more specifically about HB2 and the LGBT community in both his remarks and during the Question and Answer portion.

• Within 30 seconds of taking the stage, Governor Cooper started that he loves his state of North Carolina with its diverse mix of people of different genders, races and sexual orientations; that diversity is all over our state, and “that we need to encourage diversity at every step.”

• The most recent compromise bill repealing parts of HB2 is only initial first step. HB2 was very bad for our LGBT citizens, our state and our economy.

• Governor Cooper voiced his strong commitment to fight for statewide protections for LGBT citizens of North Carolina.

• We need to send a signal to our LGBT citizens and to other states that North Carolina is headed in the right direction in terms of LGBT inclusion.

• The business community needs to continue to take the lead in working on equality for the LGBT community.

• We need to be a more diverse state and include protections especially for the more vulnerable of our citizens. We need more comprehensive state non-discrimination policies; meanwhile we should keep our eyes on the Federal courts which could help shape this issue.

• When asked if he would considering issuing an executive order similar to Virginia Governor McAuliffe’s adding the LGBT non-discrimination protects requirement to do business with the Commonwealth of Virginia (see blog about this), Governor Cooper responded positively that he plans to use the executive order broadly and is working on proposals within the LGBT area and other unaddressed groups. (See latest Triangle Business Journal article about this point.)

I am heartened by Governor Cooper’s strong statement of support for LGBT Equality, and though I feel the recent HB2 removal compromise was a very weak first initial step, I would like to support Governor Cooper and provide him any encouragement and assistance to make North Carolina fully inclusive and welcoming of ALL people in 2017.

An LGBT Pride Month Event with US Labor Secretary Thomas Perez and Senator Tammy Baldwin

US Senator Tammy Baldwin and US Labor Secretary Thomas Perez on the stage at the US Department of Labor's 2016 LGBT Pride Event.

US Senator Tammy Baldwin and US Labor Secretary Thomas Perez on the stage at the US Department of Labor’s 2016 LGBT Pride Event.

NOTE: This blog contains several links including to other previous related blogs. Please do explore them. In addition, here is a link to the video recording of this event on Youtube!

For the past two years, I have been invited to attend the US Department of Labor’s LGBT Pride Month event. Not living in Washington DC, I am not normally able to attend, but this year I was in DC for two days of business at the time of this event. What a privilege to be able to attend this event on June 28, 2016 in our nation’s capital with two outstanding high ranking US government leaders.

(NOTE: two years earlier I had attended a meeting with Secretary Perez and a dozen other “faith leaders” representing the North Carolina Council of Churches. Link to the blog about that meeting.)

The 45 minute discussion was held like a “town hall meeting” with Secretary Perez starting with a five minute address and then interviewing Senator Baldwin. In his introduction, Mr. Perez quoted author Charles Dickens about it “Being the best of times and the worst of times” eluding to the US Supreme Court ruling on marriage a year ago followed by the recent massacre at the Pulse Bar in Orlando. He also mentioned the absence of nationwide employment protections for LGBT people and said that a gay person could get married today and then go into work tomorrow and get fired. (NOTE: I actually wrote a blog with that title – link.)

This year's US Dept of Labor LGBT Pride Month poster featuring a quote from out NBA basketball player Jason Collins.  (Link to my blog about Collins' coming out as gay)

This year’s US Dept of Labor LGBT Pride Month poster featuring a quote from out NBA basketball player Jason Collins. (Link to my blog about Collins’ coming out as gay)

Mr. Perez then introduced Senator Tammy Baldwin, the first openly out LGBT US Senator. He praised her for what she has done and how she had also done it with “Midwestern kindness” in an overall caustic political climate. Here are some of the key points Senator Baldwin made her comments:

• She personally realized the importance of universal healthcare coverage for all Americans early in her life. She was raised by her grandparents, and when she suffered through a rare and long childhood serious disease, she was not covered on their insurance since she was a grandchild. Then later in college, she had many classmates who were unable to obtain health insurance.

• She shared her journey as an out lesbian politician; from her county commission to the Wisconsin state house to US House to US Senate. She spoke of the importance of working for all constituents and building relationships. She also mentioned she was very fortunate in that a few out gay politicians helped pave the way for her and served as role models.

• The day before this meeting, she was fortunate to be in Greenwich Village, New York City, where President Obama designated the Stonewall Inn (gay bar in New York City) as an historic National Monument. (National Park website information about this new National Monument.) Stonewall was the location of the 1969 rebellion against police harassment of LGBT people and considered the birthplace of the American gay rights movement. Senator Baldwin poignantly spoke of how in the gay community, bars are actually places of safety and sanctuary, especially for people rejected by their families and communities for being gay.

Living in North Carolina where our politics is quite regressive (see my recent blogs about HB2 and hate in NC, and about alternative actions to boycotting our state,) I am encouraged by these excellent diversity and inclusion embracing leaders at our national level working for the benefit of ALL Americans.

* * * * *

On a personal note, once again I got hopelessly lost driving in DC and arrived a little late, missing the introduction by Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, Outreach and Recruiter Director for Presidential Personnel, the White House’s first openly transgender staff member.