The legalization of same-sex nationwide, while still being challenged by religious exemption laws, has meant that mainstream LGBTQ+ groups have shifted some focus to other issues long critical to the community. The LGBTQ Center of Durham opened its doors in 2015, bringing to fruition a long-time desire for a LGBTQ-specific space for the community to gather outside of the bar scene.
Local activists are currently working on issues such as making schools safer for LGBTQ+ youth, envisioning LGBTQ-affirming living spaces for elders, increasing access to health care for transgender people, and addressing the impacts of law enforcement on those marginalized, such as transgender people of color. LGBTQ+ people experience an unprecedented level of visibility in public spheres, including elected office—Sendolo Diaminah became the first openly LGBTQ member of the Durham Board of Education in 2014 and Jillian Johnson became the first openly LGBTQ member of the Durham City Council the following year.
Durham’s LGBTQ population continues to be creative in meeting the needs of its members. Over the past few years, a weekly “Yoga for Queers and Misfits” class; the 1005 Wellness Center, an LGBTQ-affirming center for a variety of wellness services and health practitioners; the LGBTQ Center of Durham, and the “Miss Hispanidad” contests are just some of the expanded options for services and entertainment the LGBTQ community has initiated. Watch “Keepin’ It Queer” video on yoga.
North Carolina’s highly controversial House Bill 2, passed in a one-day specially convened legislative session on March 23, 2016, set back LGBTQ+ rights in the state. HB2 reverses a Charlotte nondiscrimination ordinance that included the right to use the public restroom corresponding with one’s gender identity. HB2 also limits the ability of municipalities to protect people from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, eliminates the ability of workers to sue in state court over discrimination or wrongful termination, and limits the ability of municipalities to raise the minimum wage. The law serves as a powerful reminder that the battle for LGBTQ+ rights is still in progress.