RALEIGH — Opponents of North Carolina’s new law limiting antidiscrimination protections for LGBT people have reunited to mourn the victims of the shooting at an Orlando gay nightclub that killed 49 people and condemn state policies they say are responsible for furthering bigotry nationwide.
The state NAACP held a vigil “against hate and discrimination” late Monday in Raleigh on the Bicentennial Mall between the offices of Gov. Pat McCrory and the General Assembly building.
“We are one humanity, and we will not be divided by hate and discrimination and violence — not in Florida, not in North Carolina, not in America, not in this world,” state NAACP president the Rev. William Barber said.
The state’s law preventing local governments from passing LGBT anti-discrimination protections and directing which bathrooms transgender people can use has transformed North Carolina into the epicenter for the national discussion on LGBT rights. Serena Sebring of LGBT advocacy group Southerners on New Ground said the Orlando shooting was an extension of the same fight.
“Homegrown terrorism in this county is not new, and it is fueled by bigoted leaders and institutions of the far right, including the architects and supporters of House Bill 2, who put a target on our people’s backs,” Sebring said. “We know that we are relentlessly under attack at the hands of these entities just for daring to live our lives.”
Civil rights leaders and clergy called for unity against the state’s GOP-dominated General Assembly that has recently passed additional laws requiring photo identification to vote and restricting the kinds of identification immigrants can use. Social justice advocate Dr. T. Anthony Spearman said the laws contradict scriptural mandate to stand up for underrepresented populations.
“This General Assembly does not desire to function in the knowledge that their arms are too short to box with God,” Spearman said.
Imam Dr. Salahuddin Muhammad of the Association of Muslim Chaplains condemned the Orlando attack and said someone who would commit such violence is “a monster, not a Muslim.”
“We have to see the murder of innocents, whether it takes place at a nightclub in Florida or a corner in North Carolina or the streets of Syria or Palestine, as what it is: a scheme of Satan,” Muhammad said.
The rally ended with Barber and others honoring those killed in Orlando as well as the nine people who were shot to death last year during a Bible study at a Charleston, S.C., church with photos and by releasing four doves.
The movement’s two previous rallies in April and May ended with arrests of protesters who authorities say refused to leave the building or offices of General Assembly leaders after hours.