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[LOCAL TALENT]

by Jeff Sykes

BEN CHURCH – EQUALITY NC

I saw Ben Church and a group of friends gathered in a circle on Saturday on the second level of a parking deck in Winston-Salem. I could tell they were celebrating something.

Church told me this week they were celebrating the last Pride event of the year, having attended more than a dozen in North Carolina.

Church grew up in Charlotte and came to Greensboro in 2004 where he attended UNCG, studying English. He’s now the director of community engagement for Equality NC, having joined the group in 2013. I met Church two weeks ago while stationed at the Register of Deeds’ office in downtown Greensboro. Everyone was waiting for the federal courts to rule on the same-sex marriage issue. Some were bitter that state Republican leaders had filed a last minute challenge to the decision everyone knew was coming.

But not Church. He was ready to focus on the celebrations he knew would follow.

“The last couple of weeks have been celebratory and very busy,” Church said. “It’s been hectic, but it’s been something that we’ve been planning on for a very long time.”

He’s been working steadily the last two weeks with Equality NC, making sure same-sex couples looking to wed have the information and access they need. He described the time as “organized and high-energy.”

Though Church is single, he said he grew up thinking about the day his own wedding would come, but never really planned for it.

“On a personal level, it’s been really euphoric,” Church said. “Having fought against Amendment One here, and then gone to Minnesota to fight there, and then coming back to North Carolina to fight again, we always consider these paths we need to take, but personally I never planned out what it would feel like. It’s been overwhelming at times.”

The next step in the fight for equality is employment non-discrimination. North Carolina is one of 29 states where sexual orientation is not an included workplace protection.

While we were on the phone Tuesday, the city of Raleigh announced it would include workplace protection for its transgender employees.

Toward justice, indeed. !

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