Durham council opposes anti-gay marriage amendment

Unanimous opposition to amendment follows other moves to support LGBT citizens

by Matt Comer  Editor  editor@goqnotes.com
Published: July 22, 2011 in News

DURHAM, N.C. — The Durham City Council unanimously passed a resolution Thursday opposing two bills in the North Carolina House and Senate that aim to amend the state constitution to ban recognition of same-sex marriages, civil unions and domestic partner benefits.

Raleigh’s News & Observer reproted the news, which occured at the council’s work session. Members usually don’t vote at such meetings, but they suspended the rules and passed the resolution with little comment.

The resolution notes the city’s support for LGBT employees, including its move in 2002 to offer domestic partner benefits to same-sex partners of city employees. The city is one of seven municipalities across the state that offer such benefits, which could be banned under the proposed constitutional amendments.

In 2009, the council passed a resolution supporting full marriage equality for LGBT people. The nearby Towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro also passed similar resolutions in 2008. A similar resolution was presented to the Charlotte City Council in 2009; it received no official comment from councilmembers and was not heard.

North Carolina Speaker of the House Thom Tillis (R-Mecklenburg) has said the proposed constitutional amendments will be heard this year at a special legislative session on amendments this September. The amendments must pass both the House and Senate by a three-fifths majority in order to be placed on the ballot; the governor cannot veto constitutional amendments. If passed, the amendment would be placed on the 2012 ballot.

Proponents of the amendment say it is needed to prevent future legislative or judicial challenges to the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, a statute that already bans state recognition of marriages by same-sex couples. Other leaders say the move is primarily political and aimed to increase conservative voter turnout on a popular, right-wing wedge issue.

“The majority is trying to fertilize the ground in North Carolina to switch us back to a red state,” Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt, one of a handful of openly gay or lesbian elected officials in the state, said in an interview with the News & Observer on Thursday. “You put something like this on the ballot, I think in their minds it drives people who will vote for their party to the polls.”

In a closed-door, GOP caucus strategy session in June, for which audio was mistakenly broadcast into the legislature’s press room, Rep. Mark Hilton (R-Catawba) was heard discussing the timing needed to ensure turnout for the amendment.

“It’s important to the conservative groups that we get this passed this year because they need that to be able to get their ground game working to get the maximum effect to get out the vote,” he said. : :

more: Keep up with news on the anti-LGBT amendment and other updates from the legislature in our Legislative Watch: goqnotes.com/in/ncga/