November 8, 2016 at 2:06 pm EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Member of N.C. House comes out as bisexual

Cecil Brockman, gay news, Washington Blade

Cecil Brockman, a member of the North Carolina House of Representatives, came out as bisexual earlier this month. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Cecil Brockman, a member of the North Carolina House of Representatives, in 2015 decided to apologize to gays and lesbians after lawmakers overrode Gov. Pat McCrory’s veto of Senate Bill 2, which allows magistrates to refuse to officiate same-sex weddings.

He began speaking inside the chamber, but House Speaker Tim Moore proceeded to cut him off. Brockman described the moment as “incredibly difficult,” but “cathartic.”

“I was able to kind of say I am sorry, I am personally sorry for what the bill that my colleagues are putting forth,” he told the Washington Blade on Sunday during an interview at a coffee shop in downtown Greensboro. “I could not personally tell my side of the story at that time.”

Brockman spoke with the Blade two days after the Greensboro News and Record, a local newspaper, published an interview in which he came out as bisexual.

Pastor cautioned Brockman against coming out

Brockman has represented House District 60, a predominantly African American and Democratic district that includes southeast Greensboro and the nearby city of High Point in North Carolina’s Piedmont Triad region, since his 2014 election.

He was the campaign manager and legislative assistant to former state Rep. Marcus Brandon, an openly gay man who represented the district from 2011-2014.

Brockman is running unopposed for a second term.

He told the Blade that he decided to come out because Equality North Carolina Executive Director Chris Sgro, who was appointed earlier this year to represent a neighboring district in the state House, is leaving the North Carolina General Assembly at the end of the year.

“I obviously knew that he wasn’t the only one,” said Brockman, referring to Sgro as the only openly LGBT member of the General Assembly. “He was the only out one.”

Brockman told the Blade a drunk man approached him, Sgro and his husband at a local restaurant last month and began yelling at them.

The man proceeded to use anti-gay language against the three men after he saw their buttons against House Bill 2, which bans transgender people from using public restrooms based on their gender identity and prohibits local municipalities from enacting LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances. Brockman told the Blade the restaurant’s management kicked the man out, but the experience further precipitated his decision to come out.

“I was obviously thinking about doing it before that,” said Brockman.

Brockman told the Blade the black church in which he grew up taught him that homosexuality was “wrong.”

He said his family reacted to his coming out “way better than I thought they would take it.”

Brockman said his constituents have, for the most part, had the same reaction. He told the Blade that one of the pastors with whom he spoke discouraged him from publicly talking about his sexual orientation.

“He would say, ‘Don’t come out and just be there and make that change without coming out,’” said Brockman. “What I tried to express to them is that representation is very important. The community really needs to see there is somebody there representing them that they have a voice in Raleigh, especially with all the thing that are going on right now and the fact that we’re losing that voice when Chris (Sgro) leaves.”

“I felt it was extremely important to let the LGBT community know that you’re going to have somebody there that’s going to fight on their behalf,” he added.

Brockman would ‘strongly consider’ resigning if McCrory re-elected

McCrory in March signed HB 2 after the Republican-controlled General Assembly passed it in a special session.

Attorney General Roy Cooper, who is running against McCrory, has repeatedly said on the campaign trail that HB 2 has cost North Carolina’s economy hundreds of millions of dollars. Brockman noted to the Blade the Atlantic Coast Conference has cancelled their championship games, which traditionally take place in Greensboro, because of the law.

“It was incredibly difficult for me knowing my personal life,” he said, referring to the HB 2 debate in the General Assembly. “I was not out to the world and did not at the time feel the need to come out to the world, but I know that this bill affected me regardless if I was out or if I wasn’t out.”

Brockman criticized Republicans, who currently have a super-majority in the General Assembly, for the gerrymandered districts that he maintains disenfranchise black North Carolinians. He also accused them of promoting voter suppression, noting the only early voting place in Guilford County was in downtown Greensboro.

Nearly 500,000 people live in the county.

“High Point is not going to go to Greensboro to vote,” Brockman told the Blade. “They’re just not going to do it.”

“It’s not fair for people who are poor; it’s not fair for the elderly; it’s not fair for the folks who are busy and have to work and work in High Point to have to drive all the way to downtown Greensboro to vote,” he added. “It effectively silenced a whole group of people for a week of voting when there is so much attention on voting.”

Brockman also sharply criticized Donald Trump as he noted his support of Hillary Clinton.

“We’ve got one candidate that has been demeaning towards women, that has put down every single person in a derogatory fashion that he’s run against,” he told the Blade.

Brockman added Trump, HB 2 and SB 2 have “literally created an environment that makes it okay to say things that are not politically correct now.”

“Donald Trump is allowing people to say things that are clearly not okay,” he told the Blade.

“Suddenly we have a society that breeds people that think that it’s okay to discriminate against the LGBT community,” added Brockman. “That’s what is happening here in North Carolina. It’s very sad.”

Brockman said he remains hopeful that voters will elect Cooper and other Democrats to statewide office on Tuesday.

“I’m praying to God and working really hard that they do get elected,” he said.

Brockman told the Blade he would “strongly consider” resigning if McCrory wins re-election.

“I do question if I can do another two years under a Republican governor,” he said.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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