Vernetta Alston, a councilwoman for the city of Durham in North Carolina who is openly gay and is married to a woman, was to speak last Friday at a Black History Month event at the Immaculata Catholic School in Durham of which she is an alumnus.
Classes at Immaculata were canceled after officials heard “a number of groups” planned to protest the school for inviting Alston to speak at the event said The Durham News Observer.
Father Chris VanHaight, pastor of Immaculate Conception Church, explained what happened to parishioners to WRAL. “The theme for that Friday morning prayer was going to be a strong black woman. Vernetta Alston is that,” VanHaight said. “But she’s also a politician – and a pro-gay-marriage politician – and that was problematic.”
Alston said her invitation to speak had been rescinded even before word of a possible protest spread. She said it was because her support of same-sex marriage “is in conflict with the church’s position on that issue.”
“It’s been unfortunate,” she said in a Friday evening interview with WRAL News, noting that her initial instinct was sadness for Immaculata students and the people who had put together the program.
“I could see myself in those kids, for them to lose out on this opportunity and, in the process, receive this message is really disheartening.”
Alston is one of six openly LGBTQ candidates elected to office in North Carolina in 2017.