The following was prompted, in part, by Republican Mecklenburg County Commissioner Bill James’ Sunday tweet in which he shared a recent message from the pastor of Charlotte’s Calvary Church. In it, the pastor said, “God’s Plan is to Vote Yes [on Amendment One].” James’ tweet and the pastor’s message was the final impetus that led to this message – this public “talking to myself” – that follows below, as these thoughts have been swirling in my mind for months.

From the artist: 'I chose the word FAGGOT because today, gays are socially-acceptable and religiously-justifiable targets for hate. And, just like gays, Jesus was made a hate target in his time because he dared to be different, to tell his understanding of the truth even though his words and his position defied the religious establishment.'

As a person who grew up in the fundamentalist and evangelical Baptist faith, I’ve always felt a connection with those with whom I disagree on many matters of theology and doctrine, especially as it relates to sexuality. While my own faith has grown in different ways, I still identify as a Baptist and, in many ways, still proclaim that old evangelical faith of my childhood and of my ancestors. Even in the face my personal growth in faith, however, I’ve always been able to maintain some semblance of respect – some feeling of Christian brother- and sisterhood – with those who find themselves on the other side of the divide in our Christian family on homosexuality and matters of civic, social and religious equality for LGBT people.

Jeremy Hooper of GoodAsYou.org, among others, has been doing amazing work documenting the vitriol from religious right leaders in North Carolina during the debate over our proposed anti-LGBT constitutional amendment. I’ve been surfing over to his blog many times to see his latest updates. It’s important work, and the words and statements Hooper documents need to be preserved for posterity, thereby enabling future generations to learn from the painful mistakes of their elders today. But, while reading the comments and statements Hooper shares, it has become increasingly more difficult for me to reconcile – to continue living in some spirit of Christian fellowship – with people who would see me and my life ostracized, marginalized and criminalized – some, even, to the point of physical abuse and, dare they say it, death.

I once firmly believed, despite the theological and doctrinal gap between us, that some sort of reconciliation and mutual respect was possible – that even among intense debate over the meaning of Scripture and the nature of the divine, those more fundamentalist or evangelical Christians and I could still manage to live, work, speak, love and act with true Christian grace and humility.

After months of incredibly incendiary and hateful debate, I fear such a notion was mere naïveté. The hate-filled words and actions of those I consider my brothers and sisters are pushing me away from – not drawing me closer toward – our God and our spiritual family. Whatever became of, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35)?

How can I respect and love – much less expect it returned from – a person who believes it’s okay to punch a young gay boy or “crack” his “limp” wrist, as a Fayetteville, N.C., pastor told his congregation? How can I respect and love – much less expect it returned from – a person who believes that by me living life openly and honestly and expecting dignity and equality in return that I somehow have “signed America’s death warrant” and opened the doors to legalized pedophilia and bestiality? How can I respect and love – much less expect it returned from – a person who believes the government should jail or fine me for expressing my love toward another person? How can I respect and love – much less expect it returned from – a person who believes I and any future lifelong partner of mine and our family aren’t deserving of the same medical and legal benefits as my straight family members and friends and their families?

Of course, the list goes on and on.

In church yesterday, as our congregation celebrated this fifth Sunday of Easter, my pastor spoke of “doubting Thomas,” and the rightful place doubts and honest questions should have in a healthy, growing faith. It was a message, I think, I was meant to hear, for my doubts and questions have only grown since the beginning of this maddening and sickening debate in North Carolina.

How can so many of God’s children use God’s name in promoting division, prejudice, mean-spiritedness and hatred when the gospel I know speaks only of unity, fellowship, kindness and love? How can I reconcile my contempt for words of malice with Christ’s commandment to love one another as he loved us? How can I continue believing in the oneness of the body of Christ, yet be faced with the very stark reality that so many of my fellow Christians wish me cast out, placed aside and left behind?

My pastor’s message was prompted, of course, by John’s account of Thomas’ doubtful nature. But, it was the accompanying epistle reading, perhaps, that related so plainly to my own questions (emphasis added):

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. (1 Peter 2:21-24, NRSV)

In thinking through my questions, I was also reminded of those old, familiar words from Ecclesiastes:

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. (3:1, NRSV)

As well as (once more, emphasis added):

Moreover I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, wickedness was there, and in the place of righteousness, wickedness was there as well. I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for he has appointed a time for every matter, and for every work. (3:16-17, NRSV)

I can’t and won’t claim to have the answers I seek, but I think I’m heading in the right direction. I’ve always believed that many a well-meaning Christian have simply no real knowledge or awareness of the pain they cause in the lives of LGBT people. I’ve known too many good and kind-hearted people who fit this description – too many, dear friends and family included, who simply heed the misguided teachings and proclamations of their chosen religious leaders. These people would never intentionally hurt anyone and many have simply never had the opportunity to meet or speak with an LGBT person, much less the opportunity to learn how to love and include them unconditionally.

It isn’t my place to judge them. It isn’t my place to lash out with anger. It isn’t my place to threaten retribution. Instead, it is my place, as Christ commanded, to love and to teach, to live in kindness and charity. It’s a hard place to live in – difficult to practice love and fellowship when I know it might very well remain unrequited. Surely, it’s far more difficult than the easier path giving way to anger, frustration and bitterness. But, no one said it would be easy: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me,” Christ said (Luke 9:23, NRSV).

I am comforted knowing that history, no doubt guided by the hand of divine justice, falls squarely on the side of the oppressed:

The LORD works vindication and justice for all who are oppressed (Psalm 103:6, NRSV).

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19, NRSV).

In time, just as many did following the abominable era of slavery, the shameful mistreatment of women and the tumultuous days of Jim Crow and segregation, my fellow Christians who would seek to strip away my rights, my dignity and my humanity, will come to understand the errors of their ways. They will look back in shock; they will wonder why they said what they said, why they promoted division and hatred, why they voted to harm others. They will tell their children and grandchildren of the time when the world was a more hostile, less welcoming place. They will impart wisdom, borne from a personal experience wherein they themselves inflicted pain on others and learned lessons only that may teach. And, humanity will be better and stronger for it.

At least, that’s what I hope – even if doubt beckons me in the opposition direction.

No matter the outcome of North Carolina’s vote on Tuesday, I trust that our current struggle will not be in vain. I trust that some greater meaning and purpose is handed down in a lesson from which we can all learn better how to love one another and live in true Christian fellowship that celebrates, rather than takes insidious advantage of, our disagreements and differences.

The photograph used in this commentary is entitled “The Crucifixion of Christ,” a painting by artist Becki Jayne Harrelson, copyright © 1993. I encourage you to visit her website, peruse her other works and support her own, unique ministry.

I’ve had great respect for Billy Graham in my life thus far. That ends today. According to the Vote For Marriage NC coalition and The Charlotte Observer, Rev. Billy Graham has endorsed the anti-LGBT, anti-children, anti-family and anti-business constitutional amendment on the North Carolina May 8 ballot.

“At 93, I never thought we would have to debate the definition of marriage,” the national religious leader says. “The Bible is clear — God’s definition of marriage is between a man and a woman. I want to urge my fellow North Carolinians to vote FOR the marriage amendment on Tuesday, May 8.”

The flier is below.

It’s all too bad really. For such a respected man at the end of his life, this is how he decides to take a bow? More than likely, he’ll not live long enough to see his name drug through the mud as history turns its eye back on his bigotry with shameful judgment. Unlike George Wallace, Billy Graham will be able to offer no retraction or apology. Perhaps, he’ll be able to explain his support of a hateful and discriminatory measure attacking the “least of these” to God.

Pastor Michael 'Nuclear Holocaust' Barrett of Pleasant Garden Baptist Church

A short YouTube video released today contains portions of a sermon delivered by a North Carolina pastor, in which the leader says legalized marriage for same-sex couples will be like a “nuclear holocaust.”

Independent filmmaker Eric Preston compiled the video and titled it “LIES About Amendment One.” The video contains with excerpts from an April 1, 2012, sermon by Pleasant Garden Baptist Church Senior Pastor Michael Barrett entitled, “Marriage: God’s Design.” Preston says Barrett lied to his congregants about the details and impact of Amendment One, the anti-LGBT, anti-family and anti-business state constitutional amendment on the May 8, 2012, primary ballot.

Preston should be commended for countering the lies and even more so for bringing to light the utterly outrageous anti-gay rhetoric used by Barrett.

A “nuclear holocaust”? Really? I had no idea us gay folk were (a) so dangerous, (b) in possession of nuclear armaments and (c) willing to nuke mommies and daddies taking their kids out to stroll in the park on a sunny Sunday afternoon. News to me.

Preston’s video is just the tip of the iceberg. If you’re the kind that actually can bear to listen to complete nonsense, hate and bigotry, then download the full sermon by Barrett here or use the player below.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Video below; relevant “holocaust” comments at 3:59.

The Coalition to Protect All N.C. Families, those who are working overtime to defeat North Carolina’s anti-LGBT, anti-family, anti-business constitutional amendment on the May 8, 2012, primary ballot, have released new TV commercials detailing some of the potential harms of the measure.

In one ad, a mother speaks about her fear that Amendment One could strip health insurance from her daughter. More than 222,000 unmarried couples currently live in the state. Thousands of them have children. Domestic partner benefits covering unmarried partners and children — like those offered to both opposite-sex and same-sex couples in Greensboro — could be on the chopping block if the amendment passes.

But what has the rabidly anti-gay Amendment One proponents so worked up this week is the Coalition’s TV ad warning women about the consequences the amendment could have on current domestic violence protections.

The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) is just completely beside itself, writing on its blog:

New ads in North Carolina are claiming NC’s Marriage Amendment will somehow interfere with domestic violence prosecutions for unmarried women. They know this is a lie. They have claimed the same thing before about, for example, Virginia’s similarly worded Marriage Amendment.

In Ohio a silly judge ruled that the marriage amendment had this effect, but he was swiftly overruled by Ohio courts. 30 states have marriage amendments. In none of them were women deprived of domestic violence protection.

More evidence that our opponents know they cannot win this vote on the main question: “should marriage remain a union of husband and wife?”

A “silly judge”? “Swiftly overruled”?

Groups like NOM and the North Carolina’s Vote For Marriage NC aren’t being completely honest with the public. The anti-amendment Coalition isn’t lying: Ohio courts had, indeed, interpreted their amendment to mean that domestic violence protections for unmarried couples were invalid. And, there was no “swift” action overruling such cases. It took nearly three years for the Ohio Supreme Court to finally settle the matter — three years that domestic violence victims and their children were forced to wait in fear and uncertainty.

In case you missed it back in March, you should catch this in-depth summary of the domestic violence debate by The News & Observer‘s Craig Jarvis.

The question here isn’t whether North Carolina’s amendment will have a definite impact on such protections. Rather, it is whether the amendment could. The uncertainty of Amendment One and its potential harms is what is so devastating.

No one — not NOM or Vote For Marriage NC or the anti-amendment Coalition — can see into the future. No one can say whether the amendment will have a definite impact one way or the other. NOM cannot know that the amendment will have no negative effects. That Amendment One could have these impacts is, by far, the most truthful and accurate statement thus far made in this debate — a warning the Coalition to Protect All N.C. Families has been sounding since the campaign’s inception.

Anti-gay opponents in North Carolina don’t want to face the facts about Amendment One. Just like their Ohio counterparts who argued in favor of stripping away domestic violence protections in order to protect their discriminatory amendment, NOM and Vote For Marriage NC are, above all other considerations, ideologues first and foremost, unwilling to deal with reality and the possible ramifications of their efforts to experiment with our guiding and foundational governing documents.

Charlotte City Council

(Update, Feb. 13, 2012, 3:25 p.m.: As Charlotte remains silent on matters of LGBT equality, the New Jersey Senate pushes forward with a marriage equality bill and Washington state becomes the seventh to legalize equality in marriage for LGBT couples. Queen City, take note: The future is coming fast, and you’re being left in the dust.)

My post on Friday recounting the exchange between Charlotte City Councilmember LaWana Mayfield, a Q&A panel audience member and me and Mayfield’s insistence that Charlotte “has never taken a stance on anything that comes out of Raleigh” caught the ire of a couple of my readers.

In particular, “Hunter” cut right to the chase (certainly, in a more forceful way than I would have):

Mayfield’s statement is utter bullshit.

The Charlotte City Council takes positions on state legislative matters all the time. Cities have legislative agendas, and Charlotte is no exception.

Shame on Mayfield for daring this speak such obvious lies.

Anyone with even a single iota of knowledge on how local government works knows that city councils and other local governing bodies (e.g. county commissions, transportation commissions, etc.) take public positions on state and federal matters on a regular basis. That usually happens yearly when, as Hunter points out, local governments adopt their state and federal legislative agendas.

The City of Charlotte is no exception. The council’s Governmental Affairs Committee meets regularly in order to discuss, debate and propose the city’s annual state and federal legislative agenda. They even publish a calendar outlining the timing of their deliberations and subsequent approval by city staff and city council.

The city’s 2012 state legislative agenda has yet to be finalized and I couldn’t find a copy of its proposed contents on the city’s and county’s website. I did, however, find the proposed 2011 state legislative agenda, complete with a full 22 pages of in-depth public policy position statements on items ranging from public safety and criminal justice to infrastructure, taxing and budgeting needs.

Perhaps I should have posted more about this on Friday; I just figured the existence of legislative agendas was a no-brainer. Hunter’s comment reminded me, perhaps, that’s not true, despite the fact that so many current council members and candidates certainly knew what a legislative agenda was during campaign season.

Mayfield

Back at the old day job, we spearheaded an initiative to get council candidates on-the-record responses to four issues of importance to local LGBT citizens and residents.

The fourth question in our candidate questionnaire asked:

Would you support the adoption by city council of a legislative agenda that includes items to (a) seek legislative approval to extend public accommodations and public housing ordinances to include both sexual orientation and gender identity, (b) oppose the state’s 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, a statute which bans recognition of same-sex marriages, and (c) oppose any attempt to pass a state constitutional amendment that would ban recognition of same-sex marriages, civil unions, domestic partnerships and other legal arrangements?

Mayfield’s answer at the time:

Yes I would support A, B and C. I believe that by building relationships and commitments among the Council members we can ensure enough support to sustain a yes vote.

That doesn’t square so easily with Mayfield’s response at the Thursday evening panel, when she argued, “Charlotte City Council has never taken a stance on anything that comes out of Raleigh.”

Mayfield also said (emphasis added):

As far as taking a stance on anything that comes out of Raleigh, it has never been the policy of the Charlotte City Council to make a statement one way or another. We really focus on what’s happening in the City of Charlotte. We do not step outside of our realm too often. If it’s going to benefit the city, that’s our focus.

And, that bears a more in-depth response than the one I offered on Thursday evening, when I said, “It might have been something that came out of Raleigh, but it is something that will affect Charlotte. It will affect all the LGBT people who live in Charlotte — people who are represented by the people on city council and who will be affected by the amendment.”

A few of many ways the amendment impacts Charlotte and why it is a question of concern for the city and, therefore, deserves attention from our city council:

  • The amendment would bar the extension of health and other benefits to the same-sex partners of city employees. The city doesn’t currently offer these benefits, but, as mentioned by Mayfield, the issue is currently being discussed and considered by council members and city staff. If the city truly desires to one day offer these benefits to LGBT employees’ families, then taking a position on the amendment and its ban on domestic partner benefits is a question of concern for the city and, therefore, deserves attention from our city council.
  • The amendment could mean the end of domestic violence protection for individuals, both gay and straight, in unmarried relationships. The city-county’s joint police department would have to explore new ways to combat and control domestic violence between unmarried partners. How would the police department ensure the safety of a person being battered and abused by an unmarried partner? How much authority would they have to remove the abuser from the household if law prohibits the recognition of their relationship? The city oversees and administers the police department, therefore it is a question of concern for the city and, therefore, deserves attention from our city council.
  • The amendment could invalidate joint child-custody and visitation arrangements between unmarried couples. Though the county primarily oversees the social services and children’s welfare programs here, if the city has any stake at all in the preservation of healthy homes and families, then this is a question of concern for the city and, therefore, deserves attention from our city council.
  • Studies have found that LGBT people in states with anti-LGBT constitutional amendments face increased mental health problems. According to anti-amendment organizers, one such study found that LGBT people reported increases in mood disorder (36.6% increase), generalized anxiety disorder (248.2% increase), alcohol use disorder (41.9% increase), and psychiatric comorbidity (36.3% increase). Again, the county primarily provides health services to the public, but if the city has any stake in protecting, preserving and promoting a healthy population and workforce, then this is a question of concern for the city and, therefore, deserves attention from our city council.
  • The amendment could result in a chilling effect in businesses currently located in North Carolina and those thinking of moving here. North Carolina is home to 15 Fortune 500 companies. The five largest — Charlotte’s Bank of America, Lowe’s and Duke Energy, and Winston-Salem’s Reynolds American and BB&T — each offer protections to LGB  employees. With the exception of Lowe’s and Duke Energy, all offer protections to transgender workings. And, four — Bank of America, Duke Energy, Reynolds American and BB&T — each offer domestic partner benefits in addition to some some 50 other private companies across the state. Research of the “creative class” by Richard Florida has found that more and more workers within “creative” professional fields highly value respect, tolerance, inclusion and diversity. Such values are respected even among straight workers, who seek to know that a diversity of viewpoints, life experiences and people will be honored at their workplaces. According to anti-amendment organizers, the creative class workers were more than 2.5 times more likely to move to Massachusetts in the three years following marriage equality there than in the three years prior. What kind of message will this amendment send to current and potential employees and businesses in North Carolina? Will the amendment cause some citizens, along with their tax income and personal economic activity, to flee the state? Will some employees of major companies like Bank of America request to be moved to the company’s already-large presence in places like Boston or New York City (where marriage equality is recognized)? Will young entrepreneurs — the backbone of our small business economy — find it harder to recruit and retain highly-skilled and highly-valuable employees? Will companies themselves — those like Bank of America — find it easier to do business in less hostile places? According to the city council’s own 2012 Strategic Focus Area Plan for Economic Development, Charlotte seeks to “be the most prosperous and livable city for all citizens through quality economic development.” If the amendment holds any potential harm for economic development and growth, then this is a question of concern for the city and, therefore, deserves attention from our city council.

So, above and beyond the fact that it is utterly false to say that Charlotte “has never taken a stance on anything that comes out of Raleigh,” it is also false to say that Charlotte, inherently, has no interest in the potential approval on May 8 of this anti-LGBT, anti-family, anti-personal freedom and anti-business constitutional amendment. The interest is wide and varied, far beyond the simple impact on the personal lives of LGBT Charlotteans. The amendment could affect local government and its employees, local law enforcement, the health and well-being of local families and children and the economic well-being of our entire city, region and state.

This amendment is, without a doubt, a major question of concern for this city and its people and, therefore, deserves attention from our city council. Like Raleigh, Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Durham and Greensboro, the Charlotte City Council should consider and pass a resolution opposing the amendment and its potential harms to our fair city and this great state.

I encourage you to click over to the previous post on this subject, scroll to the bottom and find the contact information for Charlotte City Council. Send them an email or call them, asking them to take up a resolution opposing this amendment.

LaWana Mayfield

He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it. — Martin Luther King, Jr.

Charlotte City Councilwoman LaWana Mayfield (D-District 3) said the council will not consider a resolution opposing North Carolina’s anti-LGBT amendment, in response to an audience member’s question posed during a film screening and panel discussion hosted by Campus Pride on Thursday night at Petra’s, an LGBT-friendly bar in Plaza-Midwood.

[Disclosure: I am the communications and programs director for Campus Pride. The following post is made as a voting citizen and resident of Charlotte and does not reflect the official views or positions of Campus Pride.]

Other cities and towns in the state — including Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and Carrboro — have already passed resolutions opposing the amendment; some did so before the amendment gained legislative approval last September. In the fall, Mecklenburg County Commissioner and then-Chairman Jennifer Roberts joined city and county leaders across the state in a joint letter opposing the amendment.

This week, the Greensboro City Council passed such a statement 7-1, the sole dissenting vote being a far-right Republican. Even Greensboro’s Republican Mayor Robbie Perkins came out in opposition to the amendment.

Yet, Charlotte’s mayor and other city council leaders have yet to take an official, outspoken and forceful position on the amendment.

The somewhat edited exchange between the audience member, Mayfield and me, below:

Audience member: LaWana, what is the city council going to do about Amendment One? Are they going to debate. Are they going to pass a resolution to oppose it? Have you spoken to anyone about this?

LaWana Mayfield: Yes, we have had conversations about it. No, the city council is not going to take a stance on it one way or another, and the reason is, historically, Charlotte City Council has never taken a stance on anything that comes out of Raleigh. That’s just, historically, where the city council has never taken a stance one way or another when it comes to whatever piece of legislation may come out of Raleigh; they’ve never taken a stance on it. Yes, we are having conversations right now and as council we have been meeting with members of the community regarding a study of domestic partner benefits for the city since it was extended to county employees; that was done two years ago. As far as taking a stance on anything that comes out of Raleigh, it has never been the policy of the Charlotte City Council to make a statement one way or another. We really focus on what’s happening in the City of Charlotte. We do not step outside of our realm too often. If it’s going to benefit the city, that’s our focus. But, we are having conversations with folks to find out what the staff and what the community is asking for and we’re taking that to heart when we’re having our conversations and sending it to staff to get the balance on whether we are ready to move forward with this, what is going to be, if any, the financial implications, can we afford, is there something we can make accessible to all employees and what it’s going to look like. It has not been presented to council as a body yet. It is still in committee. Once it comes out of committee, then it will be presented to council.

Matt Comer: I personally implore you here publicly to talk to your colleagues more about coming out against the amendment. Greensboro, this week, came out to oppose the amendment. It might have been something that came out of Raleigh, but it is something that will affect Charlotte. It will affect all the LGBT people who live in Charlotte — people who are represented by the people on city council and who will be affected by the amendment. I think the council should debate this issue.

LaWana Mayfield: This is what I’d suggest, and this is for everyone in this room take this back to your friends and families: When the community shows up, they do give us the authority as council representatives to fight whatever fight that is. When you email, when you call, when you show that there’s an interest, then it’s not just me as the gay member on council saying this is something I’m going to fight for gay rights. Then it is, as a member of council, I’m listening to my constituency, I’m listening to my community, and it’s not just me, its the rest of my council who is also having to listen to their constituencies because these are the residents in their districts…saying this is an issue of importance and we want you to take the time to truly address it. Then it becomes not just me, one person, saying this is something we need to work on. It becomes the community, and then speaking with my fellow council members I can say this is something we need to work on. As a community I need you to step up, because I need you to give me the ammunition that I need in order for me to… [inaudible].

The community has been speaking out about this issue. We’ve done so for a long time. Back in July 2009, Durham resident Joshua Weaver traveled to Charlotte to support citizens here in requesting the Charlotte City Council adopt a pro-equality resolution similar to one approved by Chapel Hill and Carrboro and later approved by Durham. As you might imagine, the request in Charlotte went nowhere.

Mayfield has asked that the community get involved and voice their opinions (yet again) to Charlotte City Council. I hope you’ll join me in speaking out publicly on this issue and in contacting the members of city council.

You can find out what city council district you live in via the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections’ website. When you find out, match up your information to the district representative list and contact information listed at the bottom of this post and send an email to your district representative, the mayor and at-large council members.

When you email or call your council members, be sure to mention how you feel about the amendment and the city council’s as-of-yet public vote to pass an LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination ordinance and domestic partner benefits.

A sample script:

Dear Councilmember [MEMBER NAME],

My name is [YOUR NAME], and I live at [YOUR ADDRESS]. I’m writing today to ask you to support passing a resolution opposing North Carolina’s proposed anti-LGBT state constitutional amendment. The amendment is the most draconian version of similar amendments passed elsewhere and will write discrimination into our constitution, affecting the rights of LGBT citizens and others. The amendment’s language is so broad and vague that it could impact both gay and straight unmarried couples’ rights and even domestic violence statutes. Please pass a resolution opposing this discriminatory measure.

I also ask that you consider taking up a public vote on the matter of discrimination in city government. Our city employees deserve to know that they will be judged by their work and character alone, not simply by who they are. Please stand up for our city employees and send a sign to other LGBT citizens that anti-LGBT discrimination is wrong.

Finally, I also ask that you consider passing domestic partner benefits for city employees and their same-sex partners. These benefits are already available to heterosexual couples. LGBT employees deserve to know that their families will be as well taken care of as their straight colleagues’ families. Healthy homes and stable families make our city stronger.

Thank you,

[YOUR NAME]
[YOUR ADDRESS]
[YOUR PHONE AND EMAIL ADDRESS]

Charlotte City Council members

Mayor Anthony Foxx (D)
mayor@charlottenc.gov
704-336-2241

Patrick D. Cannon, Mayor Pro-Tem, At-Large (D)
MayorProTemCannon@gmail.com
704-336-7400

Claire Green Fallon, At-Large (D)
cfallon@charlottenc.gov
704-336-6105

David L. Howard, At-Large (D)
info@davidhowardclt.com
704-336-4099

Beth Pickering, At-Large (D)
bpickering@charlottenc.gov
704-336-5285

Patsy Kinsey, District 1 (D)
pkinsey@charlottenc.gov
704-336-3432, 704-376-5367

James Mitchell Jr., District 2 (D)
JamesDistrict2@aol.com
704-394-3332

LaWana Mayfield, District 3 (D)
councilwomanmayfield@gmail.com
704-890-5449

Michael D. Barnes, District 4 (D)
barnesdistrict4@aol.com
704-509-6141

John Autry. District 5 (D)
jautry@charlottenc.gov
704-336-2777

Andy Dulin, District 6 (R)
adulin1@carolina.rr.com
704-968-8776

Warren Cooksey, District 7 (R)
warren@warrencooksey.com
704-347-0420

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Marching past the Queen City

On February 9, the Asheville City Council voted 4-2 to begin a study of the costs and implementation of domestic partner benefits for LGBT city employees and their partners. Their move last week is quite similar to Mecklenburg County Commissioners’ strategy when first looking into the same issue back in January 2009. After a year of research, Mecklenburg officials voted in December to extend domestic partner benefits.

Of course, Mecklenburg’s decision didn’t come without the obligatory controversy from resident board conservative, Bill James. His “homo” remarks to fellow Commissioner Vilma Leake spawned calls for some sort of disciplinary action. Regardless, the benefits succeeded and will be offered starting in 2011.

Continue reading this post…

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Did that week really just fly by?

What happened to last week? A full five work days felt more like two. And, I was doing so well on posting here at the old personal pad again. Can’t control the news cycle, or the news makers, it seems.

Last week kept me busy at the day job, reporting on Mecklenburg County’s decision to extend health and leave benefits to same-sex partners of county employees. Then, I was kept busy still reporting on the antics of Republican Commissioner Bill James. All of this on top of our usual production week for the Dec. 26 print issue.

Christmas is almost here and New Year’s is just around the corner. I’m excited to get Q-Notes‘ last print issue of the year out on the news stands this week. Click over to Q-Notes and sign up for our email newsletter to get a preview of our year-end wrap up. We’ll announce our Person of the Year and Person of the Decade in the issue, too!

The Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners will consider a proposal at a private retreat today and tomorrow, looking to study the issue of offering domestic partner benefits to county employees.

Any move by the Commission in the next couple days won’t institute benefits, but rather instruct county employees to study the possibility.

Still, outspoken, conservative Commissioner Bill James (R) says the Commission shouldn’t even be discussing the issue. He says it is illegal to offer these benefits, in part because LGBT people are criminals (he cites North Carolina’s “sodomy statute,” or Crimes Against Nature statute).

In an email to constituents and the media on Monday, James used an anti-transgender slur to refer to transgender people and accused bisexuals of being promiscuous and living in threeway relationships.

The Charlotte Observer reports that straight-ally Commission Chair Jennifer Roberts is pushing the issue:

But Roberts said the issue is about offering a benefits package that is fair and competitive. “I think (extending the benefits) shows that you’re keeping up with what’s going on in the marketplace,” Roberts said. “It shows that you are moving forward and that you’re trying to treat employees with fairness.”

Statement from the Mecklenburg Gay and Lesbian Political Action Committee (MeckPAC):

Mecklenburg Gay & Lesbian Political Action Committee (MeckPAC) is pleased that the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners has begun researching the issue of domestic partner benefits for the county’s employees. MeckPAC will ensure that County Commissioners have the most accurate resources available to help guide their decision-making on this important issue. Mecklenburg County lags far behind many businesses and other similar-sized municipal governments who have long ago enacted policies that provide such benefits. Top-notch recruitment/retention of county employees, as well as the strong message it sends that Charlotte is an inclusive and welcoming place to live and work, are major reasons why providing employee benefits equitably is so vitally important.

Update: So I posted so quickly this morning my blurb about a local media group was wrong. Oops. Sorry.

No Carolinas media outlet, save Q-Notes, has called James out on his use of slurs or prejudicial stereotypes.

The Observer has an online poll up… Should the County extend benefits to domestic partners. As of Thursday morning, “NO” was clearly in the lead. Visit The Observer‘s site to vote.