Originally posted on www.lgbtcenterofraleigh.com

In the struggle for marriage equality, the American Civil Liberties is at the forefront of the battle. As Legal Director of the ACLU of North Carolina, Christopher Brook oversees the organization’s legal program and its work on a wide range of constitutional law issues, including LGBT rights, racial justice, and religious liberty.

Chris grew up in Raleigh and then attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for his undergraduate and law degrees. Along the way, he gained a passion for social justice and civil liberty that directs all his efforts in our community.

In a recent interview with Chris, he tells us, “There is much work left to do on the marriage equality issue.” He continues, “It’s hard to pin down exactly how the State views marriage equality in relation to parental rights. Adoption rights demand much of our attention right now. We are working with some gifted attorneys including Milan Pham (last year’s honoree for this award) to get this issued settled.”

“Part of the problem,” he says, “is getting the state to fully extend the benefits of marriage to same-sex couples who tied the knot outside North Carolina prior to October 10th of last year. Those couples are legally married in North Carolina now. If they had children before October 10, 2014, we need to make sure that birth and adoption records reflect both parents.”

There are other problems. Chris borrows a quote, “‘A person can get married on a Friday, have a wonderful weekend, and then bring a wedding photo to put on the desk, and promptly get fired for it.’ That’s just wrong. We have not reached equality when, through no fault of your own, you can be fired for something that is perfectly legal.”

“When our LGBT youth feel that they must harm themselves because of peer pressure to be straight, we have to intervene to support them. … Just recently, we had a case in Virginia where a young trans teen developed a urinary tract infection because he felt so uncomfortable using the bathroom in his school. The Federal District Court judge in the case referred to ‘being transgender’ as a mental disorder in open court. That kid was being heroic – standing up in front of a person in a position of power and saying ‘I not going to stand for this, and I’m going to set this right for folks coming after me.’ We have to create spaces where students and young people feel comfortable being themselves.”

Chris says, “I think back at how hard a time I had being a straight teenager and growing up. It’s an exceptionally awkward time, and I had every possible advantage. In places such as Wake County we have PFLAG and other amazing resources to help LGBTQ students through their challenges, but that isn’t available everywhere in North Carolina. We have to find people like Bob Johnson in Rowan County who are willing to stand up for our LGBTQ youth. Bob is an ally in that community because he cares about all of his students and wants to make sure they succeed.”

“It’s an indication of real progress when we see active allies in communities across the state stepping up to make a difference in LGBTQ lives.”

“We’re so thankful for the wonderful job that the LGBT Center of Raleigh has done to provide a safe space. I always learn more at the events in which I participate than I end up imparting to others,” Chris says. “James Miller and the Center’s leaders have done a great job in getting a vast array of talent to come and speak.”

“The Center has done a really good job of bringing people together to support one another, but we still need more people out there carrying the flag and being sure that we focus on all the issues the Community faces.”

The Award will be presented to him at the LGBT Center’s 7th Annual Awards Gala on Friday, October 16th, 2015 as a part of our celebration of National Coming Out Week. Click here for details.