Meet 6 South Carolinians accelerating acceptance for LGBT people

GLAAD's Southern Stories Summer Tour is done, but so much still remains to be done in order to advocate for LGBT equality in the South. We were in South Carolina June 15-16, meeting with local LGBT leaders. South Carolina has been in the national spotlight for the last week after the terrible shooting in Charleston and continued conversation about race, acceptance and tolerance. From some of the people we met on the tour, GLAAD is proud to introduce you to six people who are accelerating acceptance in the Palmetto State.

Anthony Beckett

Anthony Beckett is originally from Severna Park, Maryland. He attended South Carolina State University, where he co-founded UNITY: The GSA, the first and only Gay-Straight Alliance at a public HBCU in the state of South Carolina. He joined the South Carolina Black Pride Board of Directors to further his reach in the LGBT community as well as further develop and encourage young African American gay males. As the current President of SC Black Pride, Beckett cultivates awareness of education, empowerment, and political and community involvement for those living in both that African American and LGBT communities in SC.

Blair Durkee

Greenville, SC is home to Bob Jones University, the fundamentalist Christian school that Blair Durkee attended for a number of years before coming out as a trans woman. After leaving the intolerant religion in which she had so long been immersed, Durkee has become a strong advocate of LGBT acceptance in the Upstate of South Carolina. She is an active advocate with both BJUnity and Camp Gender Benders, equipping LGBT people with the support and skills to be leaders in seeking both legal and lived equality. Durkee graduated with a B.S. in Computer Science from Bob Jones University in 2010. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Computer Science at Clemson University and serves as Clemson's Graduate Student Government's Vice President.

Colleen Condon

Charleston County councilwoman Colleen Condon and her fiancé, Nichols Bleckley, made headlines as the first same-sex couple in South Carolina to receive their marriage license. Of their relationship, Condon told GLAAD in 2014, "We're looking forward to having that relationship recognized in a wedding that's legal in South Carolina." Because of the bravery she showed in suing the state of SC for her right to marry, Condon has made that very dream a reality for many same-sex couples in South Carolina. When she is not taking up the mantle of social justice, Condon enjoys boating, reading, and gardening.

Rev. Tiffany Adams

Tiffany Adams is the senior pastor and co-founder of Kingdom Outreach Fellowship, a non-traditional, multi-denominational community church in the heart of Columbia, SC. Her church started in 2010, growing out of a Bible study, which has remained at the heart of her ministry. She often leads communities through workshops on what the Bible has to say about LGBT people. She all of her identities identities as an African-American, bisexual, female, faith leader to draw people into an inclusive community that can welcome, accept, and celebrate all of God's creation. 

Malissa Burnette

Malissa Burnette joined the Board of Directors for SC Equality, a nonprofit that works to advance civil and human rights for LGBT South Carolinians and their families, in 2009 and serves the organization as a project there. Burnette lives in Columbia and is a Partner at the law firm of Callison Tighe. Burnette long has worked for workplace and social justice in SC. She has a wealth of experience in family law, personal injury, sexual harassment, and discrimination law. Burnette has fought in several ground-breaking cases and was a lead attorney and spokesperson in Condon v. Wilson, the lawsuit that resulted in lifting the ban on same-sex marriage in SC. Thanks to her status as a notary, she even officiated the same-sex wedding of small-town Latta's Police Chief Crystal Moore and her partner. Unsurprisingly, Burnette he has been named one of the Best Lawyers in America.

Jeff March

Jeff March is the President of SC Pride, the largest and longest-running Pride event in South Carolina. Through his leadership at SC Pride, March has helped accelerate the acceptance of the LGBT community in SC by amplifying many issues such as equal opportunity in employment, equal treatment in the military, the repeal of sodomy laws, the right to adopt children, and the monitoring of hate crimes by law enforcement. Additionally, March brings style to the Palmetto State as the owner of and stylist at robert jeffrey salon. Originally from Illinois, March makes his home in the South Carolina capital of Columbia.

GLAAD is proud of these six individuals – and so, so many other South Carolinians – who accelerate acceptance in the South. Make sure to check out GLAAD's Southern Stories program and our newly-released original mini-documentary State of Change: South Carolina where these six, along with other acceptance accelerators, are profiled.