LGBT activists protest town Pride proclamation over omitting ‘sexual orientation’

The Holly Springs town logo is shown.

HOLLY SPRINGS — A group of around 40 to 50 LGBT supporters, including some teens and small children, protested in front of the Holly Springs Police Department building on June 13 over words omitted from the town’s Pride proclamation.

The protest took place in that location due to a town council meeting planned to take place there later that evening.

Holly Springs’ pride proclamation states it’s for, “all people, regardless of age, gender identity, race, color, religion, or disability, have the right to be treated on the basis of their value as human beings.”

LGBT activists were upset that “sexual orientation” or the LGBT community was not specifically included in that list, which led to organizing the protest.

“The pride proclamation – It was called the Pride of Holly Springs. It specifically eliminated the LGBTQ+ community,” LGBT activist and Holly Springs resident Donna Friend told North State Journal. “It’s something we’ve been working on – that, and the nondiscrimination ordinance – for over a year.”

The nondiscrimination ordinance (NDO) referred to by Friend is Wake County’s NDO, which contains language for “protect classes” of citizens and appears to apply to both public and private employment and/or venues with an exception for houses of worship.

“It shall be unlawful for any owner, proprietor, employer, employee, agent, keeper, or manager in a place of public accommodation to deny any person the full and equal enjoyment of the accommodations, advantages, facilities, or privileges thereof because of that person’s inclusion within one or more Protected Class,” the Wake NDO states.

At a January meeting of the Holly Springs Town Council, Friend and other LGBT activists pressured the council to adopt Wake County’s NDO.

“We’re happy to have supporters,” Friend said when asked about the turnout. “I am also very happy to see the level of support that we have from passersby and that’s great news; that means to me that when we’re ready to vote in November, we should be able to do something on our town council.”

A small group of around 3 counter-protesters holding signs that read “America For All,” were also present.

Anthony Jackson, who led the small group, told North State Journal he came down from Wake Forest to be there in support of the town’s proclamation.

“I came because I feel it’s time that American people stood up against the woke agenda. In my opinion, that’s woke and I’m here to represent an opposing view,” Jackson said, adding that he read the proclamation and that the thought “it was perfectly well said.”

North State Journal reached out to Holly Springs Mayor Sean Mayefskie for his reaction to the protest and is awaiting a response.

Mayefskie, a Republican, ran for mayor in 2021 against Kelly, beating her with over 60.6% of the vote. He was endorsed by the late former Mayor Dick Sears who had served the town for 20 years (2001-2021) before losing a battle with cancer on Sept. 2, 2022.

Not all of the LGBT protesters were residents of Holly Springs, but apparently also included individuals from other towns and even another county, according to a Facebook post by “Pride of Cary.”

“We had the opportunity tonight to stand up for our neighbors in Holly Springs. The demonstration went well with a good turnout and community support from passersby,” Pride of Cary’s post reads. “Jack Turnwald is definitely an asset to their LGBTQIA+ representation movement! Thank you to everyone from PRIDE of Cary who came and the other organizers from Apex, Morrisville, and Johnston County who showed y’all means all!”

Holly Springs resident and LGBT activist Jack Turnwald, who has described themself as transgender and nonbinary, publicized the proclamation and protest on social media.

June 13, 2023 — LGBT activist Jack Turnwald (right) poses with another activist at a protest in Holly Springs, North Carolina. Image taken from a public post on Turnwald’s Facebook page.

North State Journal was unable to track Turnwald down during the protest, however, in a public Facebook post after the event, Turnwald posted pictures,  thanked activists for showing up, and claimed the crowd was around 100 people.

According to public records, Turnwald was a public school teacher in Durham County Public Schools. They also to taught in Wake County Public Schools up until around July 2022 when Turnwald listed their profession on LinkedIn as a “Humancentric DEI Consultant.” While a teacher, Turnwald taught under the same name they are registered to vote as; Jaclyn Turnwald.

Holly Springs Town Council member Aaron Wolff, a Democrat, also made a social media post on his official Facebook page that in part called citizens of his town “small-minded.”

“June has come and once again it’s Pride Month! But instead of celebrating our LGBTQ community and the hardships they’ve overcome, Holly Springs is again in the headlines for the all the wrong reasons,” Wolff wrote in the post.  “While all these brands and countless towns around us celebrate, we can’t because we are too afraid to say gay. Why is beyond me, but I suspect it’s because there’s a fear of the pushback we’d get from a few outspoken, small-minded members of the community.”

Southern Wake General Assembly Rep. Julie von Haefen, a Democrat, commented on Wolff’s post with “Happy Pride, Holly Springs!!”

Since being elected to the town council, Wolff hasn’t made a secret of his progressive activism.

In 2020, he was involved spearheading gun restrictions on town property along with former council member and fellow Democrat Christine Kelly. That same year, in June, he made a high-profile appearance at a Black Lives Matter protest that closed down the main street in Holly Springs for hours.

Editor’s note: A.P. Dillon is a resident of the Town of Holly Springs.