There are a lot of hopeful signs these days when it comes to LGBTQ equality. There’s the ongoing positive trend in public attitudes across the globe — especially as you move down the age scale. There’s the growing list of one-time equality opponents who have publicly admitted the error of their ways. There’s the national and international derision that has been poured upon North Carolina as a result of the HB2 debacle. And, of course, there’s the joyful arrival of marriage equality.
Last Friday night, however, I (along with thousands of other people in Raleigh) were lucky enough to witness something new that provided a remarkably powerful and hopeful shock to the system (and one that this middle-aged, sports loving equality advocate never suspected he would see); it was called “Hockey is For Everyone Night.”
The occasion was a regular season National Hockey League game between the Carolina Hurricanes and Ottawa Senators. My wife and I knew something was up, however, when we walked into the PNC Arena and saw rainbow-colored Hurricane symbols all over the place. Wow, I thought, could they really be planning on making some kind of a statement tonight?
Amazingly, the next thing we knew, red carpets were being unfurled on the ice so that Shawn Long, Director of Operations at Equality NC could drop a ceremonial first puck between the captains of the two teams. This was later followed by a video taped statement recorded by a Hurricanes player named Eddie Lack, in which the lanky Swedish goalie made a pointed call for inclusiveness and an end to discrimination of all kinds. Later in the evening, during the “community hero of the night” segment — a game break usually reserved for extending public recognition and thanks to a member of the military, or law enforcement or other public safety officer — the person recognized was a representative of a local LGBT center.
At each opportunity, my wife and I stood and cheered as loud as possible for fear that there would be a need to drown out catcalls and boos. Happily, though, there were few, if any, to be heard. Instead, there was simply smattering of polite applause — the kind one would hear most nights for any other kind of civic celebration. It was, in other words, precisely the kind of event that it should have been: a thoroughly ordinary event recognizing ordinary people dedicated to what is fast becoming — even in the hyper-macho world of sports — an unremarkable and widely accepted cause. Thank goodness.
The next time they have such an event, let’s hope the Canes invite Senator Phil Berger and Speaker Tim Moore to attend so that they can see how far out of the mainstream their narrow and hateful views are fast becoming.