Citing concerns for the safety of its attendees, the Family Equality Council has postponed a highly anticipated weekend-long retreat in North Carolina, after the state's Republican leadership enacted sweeping anti-LGBT legislation known as House Bill 2 on March 23.
The Family Equality Council, a nonprofit that supports and connects LGBT families across the country, had planned to host its first Family Weekend at Hendersonville's Camp Kanuga June 17-19. The event has not yet been rescheduled, though organizers indicated they are seeking alternative locations, including in Georgia, where the state's Republican governor recently vetoed an anti-LGBT bill.
"We did not make this decision lightly or without great debate," said Brent Wright, Family Equality Council's interim co-executive director and director of programming, in a statement today. "The decision was made by a cross-section of our leadership team and came after two weeks of discussing the situation with stakeholders and our families. We are committed to serving our families in the South, but given the situation in North Carolina, this is just not the right place for our families at this time. Sometimes we have to make hard decisions for our families."
In light of the state's controversial new law -- which was rushed through a special legislative session and signed by the governor in a single day -- the LGBT family group expressed grave concern for the safety of the transgender individuals and children who would be traveling to North Carolina to attend the sold-out, first-of-its-kind event. The group explained that two-thirds of the families registered for the event would be coming from out of state, and that the law's "particularly egregious provisions" targeting transgender people, barring them from using restrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity, would undermine the safety and inclusive intention of the event.
"Even though Camp Kanuga is an incredibly welcoming and affirming partner, given the hostile climate under this new law, we could not guarantee the safety of our families as they traveled to and from our event," said Emily Hecht-McGowan, interim co-executive director and director of public policy. "We do not want to put our children in harm's way. We are committed to serving our families in the south, but we also need to be reasonably confident that we don't put their safety, security and dignity at risk."
Family Equality Council appears to be among the first LGBT groups to announce the cancellation of an event slated for North Carolina, though major corporations have urged Gov. Pat McCrory to repeal the law, and PayPal announced that it would not move forward with a planned expansion in the state that was expected to bring 400 jobs to Charlotte.