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Asheville, N.C. trans board member resigns amid anti-LGBTQ attacks

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ASHEVILLE, N.C. – The first openly trans member of the school board in Asheville, North Carolina announced her resignation this week after persistent attacks from an anti-LGBTQ group.

Asheville City Board of Education member Peyton O’Conner made the announcement Monday after an anti-LGBTQ group made several appearances at meetings during public comment periods, repeatedly misgendering O’Conner, who is a transgender woman, and spreading homophobic and transphobic rhetoric.

O’Conner is the board’s first out trans member, and likely one of the only trans people to sit on a North Carolina school board, said Western Carolina University political science professor Chris Cooper, to the best of his knowledge.

The Arizona-based group, Alliance Defending Freedom, which was identified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2016, was represented at school board meetings by local pastor Ronald Gates, who identified himself as an “ambassador” of the organization. Gates began speaking at ACS board meetings in October.

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ACS board member Peyton O'Conner resigned on Dec. 5.

On its website, the Alliance identifies itself as a “legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, the sanctity of life, parental rights, and God’s design for marriage and family.”

O’Conner said Dec. 5 she made the decision to resign following a “dust up” at the Nov. 16 board meeting.

Her Dec. 5 resignation was effective immediately. O’Conner was appointed to the board in March 2021. Her term was intended to last until 2024.

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