Civil Liberties

Perhaps because of the large number of outspoken and thoughtful people in our community, we have often found ourselves at ground zero in battles over civil liberties. In the 1980's Chapel Hill elected the first openly-gay elected official in the state, but Carrboro bested that by electing North Carolina’s first out mayor a decade later.

More recently, Chapel Hill grappled with free speech issues in the wake of 9/11, approved and then dismantled red light cameras in 2003-4, and was challenged by fundamentalists over support for gay marriage in 2005.

Zero Tolerance for Intolerance

Just when we think we're so enlightened around here, a bunch of teenagers assault a Sikh man because they think he looks like Osama Bin Laden. In fact the kids were so stupid that in addition to the assault charges, one of them got busted for possession of marijuana and intent to sell crack. Not our community's finest, I must say.

Gagandeep Bindra, who has a short beard, brown skin and wears a Patka, a scarf wrapped around his hair, said that it is not uncommon for people to call him and others with brown skin Osama bin Laden or a terrorist.

"This is like a normal occurrence after 9/11," Bindra said Friday. "Every night when I go out to Franklin Street, someone shouts out bin Laden.... They think anybody brown is Middle Eastern. Anybody brown is a terrorist."

The way people treated him after 9/11 changed, he said, but he expected he would be safe in a college community.

Next steps for gay civil rights in North Carolina

So now that Councilman Kleinschmidt has managed to one-up the edgier, more liberal West End of Chapel Hill (otherwise known as Carrboro) on his resolutions to make Chapel Hill a more accepting place for gay folk, what's next? For the past 10 years of my existence around here, I've noticed Carrboro has generally taken the lead as the trailblazer. I think the Burma resolution was first passed in Carrboro and I KNOW the "eat France first" resolution was first in Carrboro. So what do we think Carrboro can do to forward the gay marriage debate and continue in its prominent role as liberal bastion of the South?

Three New Petitions Regarding LGBT Rights

Follows is a petition I am submitting at the Council's March 22, 2004 meeting. The Chapel Hill News gave front page coverage to the petition this morning.

My hope is that the petition is referred to staff for drafting of the requested code and policy changes, and that the second petition is added to Wednesday's public forum on the Legislative Agenda. Also, I hope that this begins a discussion of these important issues in our community. As Mayor Foy says in the CH News, "the silence in North Carolina is deafening."

Another Busy Night

Activists, start your engines! There are three great events tonight, addressing development of Carolina North, workers' rights on campus, and homophobia in the classroom. (All pertaining to UNC, hmmm.) Which one are you going to?

1. Town Council Public Hearing on the Horace Williams Citizen's Commitee Report and on OI-4. Starts at 7pm, Chapel Hill Town Hall. There are lots and lots of meetings relating to UNC's development plans, but this Monday is one not to miss. The Chapel Hill Town Council will hold public hearings on two issues that will define the future deliberations about Carolina North. I'll be there.

2. The Workers Solidarity Coalition teach-in about the history of workers struggles at UNC. Starts at 7pm, Greenlaw 101, UNC-CH. Sounds great! Panelists include: Fred Battle, leaders of the 1969 Lenoir strike, Keith Edwards, leaders of the Housekeepers Movement and UE 150. I hate that I will be missing this.

Why Not?

Guest posts from two readers
Two readers suggested this topic and framed it well, so I am including both of their suggestions. -Ed.

How about gay marriage in Carrboro and/or Chapel Hill? Surely we can't let San Francisco and New Paltz get ahead of us in ensuring basic rights for minorities. It's not only the decent thing to do--it would also give some positive publicity to our area (how many people had heard of New Paltz until this weekend?). The more communities that are doing this, the harder it will be to impose a reactionary, disgraceful constitutional amendment to ban it.
- Steve Sherman



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