North Carolina Democrats in Brunswick and New Hanover counties voted to replace Rep. Susi Hamilton with local attorney and LGBT activist Deb Butler.
Hamilton (D-18) was tapped by Governor Roy Cooper to serve as Secretary of Natural and Cultural Resources. As previously reported at American Lens, Hamilton had used her government email to promote a non-profit which included fundraising links. That report led to an ethics complaint being filed which has since disappeared.
Butler received 133 votes from the executive committee in charge of the selection process, followed by James Knox (91), Andrew Barnhill (15), Brenda McMillan (10) and Harper Peterson (10).
According to the News and Observer, Deb Butler is openly gay and is the second gay member of the North Carolina General Assembly:
Butler, who is gay, will be the second openly LGBT member of this year’s legislature. When the legislature approved House Bill 2 last year, no openly LGBT people were serving. Chris Sgro, director of the LGBT advocacy group Equality NC, was later appointed to serve the remainder of the 2016 session. After he left, Democratic Rep. Cecil Brockman of High Point announced he is bisexual.
Butler had previously run in 2012, unsuccessfully, against Thom Goolsby. Butler lost to Goolsby by over 8,000 votes.
Campaign finance records at the NC State Board of Elections shows Butler apparently never properly closed out her campaign committee. A list of penalty letters and non-compliance fill the 2015 entries. The final entry reports that the previous non-compliance letter sent was, “Returned Undeliverable or Unclaimed.”
Butler was criticized for one of her campaign ads which inaccurately women’s health laws in North Carolina to that of other states.
The ad attacked Goolsby with a transvaginal wand and went on to slam Goolsby’s wife, who later responded to the attack in separate campaign ad.
The ad was slightly tone deaf, as Butler claimed that Goolsbys wife was not qualified to speak on the topic because of she was ‘ not a doctor’, yet Butler herself is not a doctor either.
Equality NC endorsed her for the Goolsby race and also endorsed her this time around for Hamilton’s position.
— Equality NC (@equalitync) January 27, 2017
Butler told WECT that HB2 repeal is her priority, stating that “I’m certainly going to fight tooth and nail against HB2 because it insults members of my community,” and that, “the fact is, issues are issues across all streets so we’re going to fight for all the citizens.”
Unmentioned by local media covering the Butler selection is that she was an ardent defender of Occupy Wilmington.
In 2011, Butler appeared before the Wilmington City Council on behalf of the Occupiers and argued they were within their First Amendment Rights for what was essentially a take over a public park. Butler went on to urge the City Council to issue the Occupiers a permit so they could continue to do so.
Council member Sparks responded to her claims of ‘lawful protest by pointing out vandalism to the City Hall. Butler responded with a totally unsubstantiated theory about “infiltrators” being the culprit. Butler said that, “she is not convinced that it was done by a member of the organization, noting that similar organizations have infiltrators.”
Butler’s testimony transcript:
Ms. Deborah Butler spoke to Council regarding Occupy Wilmington, and stated that the group stands in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street. She noted that she is present to articulate the group’s First Amendment rights to speech and assembly. She added that Occupy Wilmington has been engaged in a variety of protests that have been lawful, in accordance with City Ordinances and have occurred without incident.
Ms. Butler stated that the courts are hesitant to place constraints or limitations on freedom of expression. She noted that for several days the Occupy group has requested a permit for overnight usage of the park area at City Hall to communicate their message. She added that they were told that City Ordinance 7-2 prohibits their presence on park property from sunset to sunrise. She noted that although true a closer look at the Ordinance reveals that there is also a mechanism for a permit for the use of the park as follows:
Section 7-2. Park closing hours.
(a) No person shall enter or remain in any City park from sunset each day to sunrise the following day.
(b) The provisions of this section do not apply to:
(1) City employees engaged in the performance of their duties;
(2) Person or groups holding a valid permit during the hours listed in the permit;
Ms. Butler stated that in Section 7-5, no person shall engage in the following conduct in any park: Sleeping, camping or otherwise staying in any park overnight, unless by permit or as a part of a sponsored program; lying or sleeping on park benches or tables. She noted that thus far no permit has been issued although requested, nor has any explanation for the denial been made.
She added that the Occupy Wilmington General Assembly is requesting that this Council direct the issuance of a permit for the overnight usage of the park space. She noted that it is the group’s position that an integral portion of the group’s message is inextricably bound with the notion of occupation or consistent presence in public space, and a denial of a permit is placing an unconstitutional restriction of their First Amendment rights.
Ms. Butler stated that currently litigation on this subject is occurring around the nation, specifically in Cincinnati and other jurisdictions. She noted that some municipalities have chosen to grant permits to similar groups in an effort to allow for the continued harmonious and nonviolent expression so revered by all citizens of this nation. She requested that Council choose this course and direct Staff to provide this group a permit as provided for by the City Code of Ordinances, or at least to issue a written explanation as to why the permit has been denied.
Council member Sparks stated that he is in favor of public expression and peaceful assembly, but mid-afternoon today someone had scrawled four-foot high letters on City Hall, defacing public property. Ms. Butler stated that she was made aware of the incident by the City Attorney’s office (Mr. Wolak). She noted that this organization has a written code of conduct that prohibits defacing property. She added that she is not convinced that it was done by a member of the organization, noting that similar organizations have infiltrators. She noted that the timing makes her suspicious of who did it, and that she is in favor of prosecuting whoever did.
Butler appears at the 7:41 mark in the video of the city council proceedings:
For more news related to Occupy Wilmington, visit WWAY TV3.