A Catholic school in Durham, NC allowed a lesbian councilwoman to speak to students after the school was forced to cancel classes if she spoke at a planned Black History Month event last month.
In February, lesbian city councilwoman Vernetta Alston was invited to speak to students at Immaculata Catholic School’s Black History Month event in February, but her speech was canceled after the school received threats of protests.
Alston is an alumna who attended the school from kindergarten through 6th grades.
She is in a same-sex “marriage” to a woman, which was “problematic” for the parents of some of the students.
Out of concern for the students’ safety, Fr. Chris VanHaight, the pastor of Immaculata Catholic School and Immaculate Conception Church, closed the school for the day.
“As pastor, I cannot place our Immaculata students into this contentious environment,” he wrote in a letter to parents.
But public backlash and pressure from politicians forced the school to reconsider its decision.
Alston took to the stage to a standing ovation Tuesday night at Immaculata, nearly a month after her previous appearance was canceled.
“Thank you for being an example for everyone in Durham, and for me personally, and thank you for showing me how to fight for our children,” Alston said to the crowd.
She talked about the influence her grandmother had on her growing up in Durham without a father. She did not discuss her same-sex marriage.
Police were waiting in the wings just in case protests broke out.
Afterwards, students stood in line to meet with Alston. Some students compared the long wait to standing in line at Disney World.
Alston was encouraged by the overwhelming support.
“I felt very excited to finally deliver that kind of message, and I hope people received it well,” she said. “It’s just so special to see folks be committed to what they value and say it out loud and to support one another.”
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