Campaign flyer from Joe’s first Chapel Hill Town Council race, 1979

About Joe

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Chapel Hill, N.C., United States
Joe Herzenberg was born June 25, 1941, to Morris & Marjorie Herzenberg. His father owned the town pharmacy in Franklin, N.J., where Joe grew up. After he graduated from Yale University in 1964, Joe went to Mississippi to register voters for Freedom Summer. He joined the faculty of historically black Tougaloo College, where he was appointed chair of the history department. Joe arrived in Chapel Hill in 1969 to enroll as a graduate student in history at the University of North Carolina, and, along with his partner Lightning Brown, soon immersed himself in local, state, and national politics. Although Joe’s first campaign for the Chapel Hill Town Council in 1979 was unsuccessful, he was appointed to the Council to fill a vacant seat and served until 1981. In 1987, he was elected to the Council, becoming the former Confederacy's first openly gay elected official. Joe died surrounded by friends on October 28, 2007. He was 66 years old.

Saturday, May 25, 1991

UNC-CH students want to cut gay group's funds

The News & Observer, May 25, 1991


CHAPEL HILL -- Some students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill want the school to stop funding the campus gay and lesbian group because they say its members commit "crimes against nature."

The UNC-CH summer Student Congress has voted to recommend funding for the Carolina Gay and Lesbian Association be withdrawn next year. Congress speaker Timothy K. Moore said he sponsored the proposal because the CGLA violates state statutes outlawing sodomy and other forms of "unnatural sexual intercourse."

"The CGLA advocates the activities of homosexuals," said Mr. Moore, a senior from Kings Mountain. "By virtue of homosexuality being an illegal activity, the code of the Student Congress prohibits us from allocating funds to a group that promotes illegal activity."

The organization is the primary support group for gays and lesbians on the UNC-CH campus. Among other things, it publishes a newsletter and sponsors workshops and seminars. It has about 150 members.

Elizabeth A. Stiles, a recent UNC-CH graduate who was co-chairman of the CGLA in 1988-89, said she was not surprised to hear about the move by the Student Congress.

"They've been saying homosexuality is illegal forever," said Ms. Stiles, who now works at the Orange County Women's Center. "There are certain acts that are illegal, but they are illegal for heterosexuals also. It's just too bad they had to go out of their way to make this kind of statement."

The recommendation by the summer Congress passed on a vote of 8-5, but is largely symbolic. The final decision on whether or not to fund the group rests with the full Student Congress, which makes budget allocations in the spring.

Nevertheless, Joseph A. Herzenberg, a Chapel Hill Town Council member and a gay-rights activist, said the move was significant.

"The fight has begun to move from tolerance to acceptance," said Mr. Herzenberg, the only openly gay elected official in the state. "That's why I think it will be a perennial battle."

Last year, the student government awarded the CGLA about $2,000. The money came from a $21 student-activity fee that all undergraduates paid as part of their tuition. That meant that, on average, each of the school's 23,000 students paid about a nickel to support the group.


Matthew F. Heyd, student body president...said the CGLA had a legitimate claim to student-activity funds because it offered students a necessary service.

"There are times when the student government should spend money on groups that are not supported by the majority of students on campus," said Mr. Heyd, a senior from Charlotte. "Part of the role of student government is to create a community where everyone feels comfortable."

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