Published: Feb 12, 2013 07:00 PM
Modified: Feb 12, 2013 04:45 PM
Durham is our beloved Queer City. It is a city that seeks to support all families through politics, access to health care, non-discrimination in the workplace and affirming places to worship.
Last year it was voted the Most Tolerant City in the United States. LGBTQ families stood holding hands at City Hall in 2009, as our fair city passed a resolution in support of marriage equality. Durhams city council preemptively passed a resolution stating its opposition to Amendment One, in 2011. And on May 8, 2012, Durham voters used their ballots to make Durham one of eight counties in North Carolina to vote against the amendment.
This political support of queer families, regardless of marital status, is a continued legacy of Durhams participation in civil rights and equality. The practice of that legacy is intersectional, social justice based politics. Sometimes working in tandem and sometimes holding mainstream politicians feet to the fire are Durhams queer social justice activists. Queer social justice activists understand that discrimination with regards to race, gender, or sexual identity is linked with the denial of access to food/water, land and equal education.They understand that the fight is against the same system of oppression that seeks to maintain the status quo of privilege and exclusion.
Durham is one of three cities in North Carolina that extends domestic partner benefits to gay and lesbian couples. This coverage is an acknowledgment that queer people and their children should not have to go into debt when someone in the family becomes ill. It means that in the City of Medicine, some LGBTQ families have coverage for traditional and holistic health care.
Durhams local businesses respect the buying power of Durhams queer community which is evidenced by the rainbow flag stickers posted in window shops and their generous financial support of the N.C. Pride Parade and the 10-day long N.C. Gay and Lesbian Film Festival.
The term parents has in reality always meant more than one Mom and one Dad. Grandparents, aunts/uncles and godparents have also been the people parenting children. Durham teachers strive to include all family configurations including LGBTQ families during family-affirming holidays like Mothers and Fathers Day or Christmas, Kwanzaa and Hanukkah. Public school media centers carry books that encourage children to understand that love is the foundation of family and not what gender a parent is.
Ultimately we all want to feel safe in our neighborhoods. Durham is place where two women can hold hands walking down the street without fear of bodily harm. It is a place where gay and trans folk can openly hold public office and teach students without fear of losing their jobs or being shunned by people in their communities.
Although Durham is the Queer Capital of Universe, there is still work to be done. There is work to be done both locally and nationally to ensure all queer people regardless of race, class, or gender non-conformity have equal protection under state and federal law. Durham should continue to lead by example in ensuring protection against discrimination encoded into state law. Our citys strength is anchored on ability to protect all of its citizens in the workplace, at school and while seeking to find a place to practice their faith.