MeckPAC was founded in 1998 by a group of concerned citizens reacting to an emergency need for local political advocacy for LGBT equality. This emergency need arose because of a profoundly anti-LGBT vote by the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners. To understand that vote and how it galvanized the local LGBT community to take action against it by forming MeckPAC, one needs to know the following story.
In 1996, Charlotte Repertory Theatre presented the play “Angels in America” in a prominent uptown venue. The play had a strong gay theme related to the 1980’s AIDS crisis. This Charlotte Repertory production unleashed a storm of public controversy. Reactions included blatant anti-homosexuality and protests of public funding for the arts since a portion of Charlotte Repertory Theatre’s budget came from the predominately-county-funded Arts & Science Council.
After this play and largely because of it, four Republican Mecklenburg County Commissioners were joined by one Democrat in the 1997 county funding cycle in voting to de-fund the Arts & Science Council, rescinding $2.5 million in annual funding to cultural organizations. This “Gang of Five” (the name they were dubbed by the community and local media) made their motives clear. While calling publicly for “community morality” and defining the family as, “a husband, wife and possible offspring”, their rhetoric also included statements such as, “If I had my way, I’d shove (homosexuals) off the face of the earth.”
In the very next election cycle for the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners after this anti-LGBT arts funding vote, the newly-founded MeckPAC was triumphant in its quest of ousting the infamous Gang of Five. After MeckPAC campaigned tirelessly for County Commission candidates who promoted civility and diversity, the 1998 election created a County Commission composed seven pro-arts, pro-diversity Democrats; one pro-arts, pro-diversity Republican; and only one remaining member of the Gang of Five! MeckPAC’s efforts continue today because of the courageous stand its founders took in 1998. MeckPAC fights on to strongly promote a local political environment that fosters the inclusion and acceptance of the LGBT community.