By Joey Lopez, Campaign for Southern Equality
Just along the French Broad River, Marshall is a small town of less that 900 tucked away in the Blue Ridge Mountains. In the middle of Marshall’s downtown stretch stands the Madison County Courthouse, a quaint domed top building with majestic white columns in front. On Sunday, June 7, just across the street from the courthouse about 70 people gathered at Good Stuff, a local eatery and gathering place, for an ice cream social hosted by the Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit and CSE.
Our hope for the night was simple: to create an opportunity for Madison county LGBT people and their allies to gather, build community and enjoy each others company. By 7 p.m. there were at least 50 people connecting with their neighbors. Through out the night, folks continued to show up for the celebration with live music by Sarah Tucker and it was not long before we were scraping the bottom of the ice creams tubs. Between songs, folks shared their experiences of living in the county – raising a family as lesbian couple, the experience of a sibling’s coming out, parenting a gay son and marching to the Register of Deeds counter to request a marriage license before marriage equality was law in North Carolina.
One of the storytellers, Beth, inspired me with her words: “Every conversation about LGBT life plants a seed.” Growing up in one of North Carolina’s smaller towns, this stuck with me. It made me think about my mom and the seeds she plants every single day. The stories offered a shared history of love, support and hope from generations of LGBT people, their friends and family from across the county. This event was an opportunity for friends and neighbors, business owners and people of faith to turn on their porch light as a sign of solidarity and support for LGBT people in Marshall. Porch lights that are very much needed as our NC state legislature creates law, like Senate Bill 2 which will allow some municipal employees to discriminate. Porch lights that are very much needed for young and old within our community who feel isolated and alone.
On Oct. 10, North Carolinians moved a step closer toward full equality for LGBT lives and any day now a Supreme Court ruling could grant the freedom to marry to our entire country, but there is still much more work to be done. What conversations do we need to have with our neighbors? Where do seeds need to be planted? These are steps toward building a new South.