N.C. city, county leaders protest proposed anti-LGBT amendment

Mayors, county commissioners say loss of employee domestic partner benefits a threat to competition in global marketplace

by Matt Comer  Editor  editor@goqnotes.com
Published: September 12, 2011 in News

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Leaders from several North Carolina cities and counties have spoken out against a proposed anti-LGBT state constitutional amendment, warning its potential threats to their employees’ domestic partner benefits will hinder their efforts to compete in a global marketplace and attract top, diverse talent.

Kleinschmidt

The letter from Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt was also signed by several other local leaders from across the state and emailed to each of the North Carolina General Assembly’s 170 members. The letter was also released to media. Other signatories include Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton, Mecklenburg County Commission Chairman Jennifer Roberts, Durham County Commission Vice Chairman Ellen Reckhow, Durham Mayor Bill Bell, Orange County Commissioner Chair Bernadette Pelissier and Asheville Mayor Pro Tem Brownie Newman.

In the letter, Kleinschmidt, one of only a handful of openly gay or lesbian elected officials in the state, says the proposed amendment would threaten his city’s, other municipalities’ and the state’s reputation in a global economy. At issue are the each of the eight municipalities’ domestic partner benefits, offered to city and county employees and their same-sex partners. Such benefits allow the sharing of medical and dental benefits and medical and funeral leave to care for sick or dying loved ones. Signatories on the letter represent the only towns, cities and counties to extend such benefits to LGBT employees and their partners.

“This legislation represents a threat to North Carolina’s ability to recruit the diverse workforce needed to compete in a global economy, will strip public employees of domestic partner benefits while also hindering benefits in the private sector, and perpetuates a divisive social agenda that is unwelcoming and not reflective of our state,” the letter reads.

Kleinschmidt and the other signatories say their domestic partner benefits plans are in line with standard corporate practice throughout the country and state.

“In 2011, 83% of the Fortune 100 and 58% of the Fortune 500 offered domestic partner benefits including North Carolina based companies such as Bank of America, Lowe’s, Duke Energy, BB&T, and Reynolds American,” the leaders said. “Turning the clock back on equality will have a very real impact on North Carolina’s economy and our ability to compete in the international marketplace. When companies search for locations they consider all aspects of a community; smart companies know LGBT Americans are not only part of America, but that their talent is essential to its future.”

Read the full letter to the General Assembly here.

The letter from local leaders’ is the latest in a line-up of statements released by state and local leaders. Last week, Democratic members of the legislature held a press conference condemning the amendment. On Friday, Facebook co-founder and Hickory, N.C.-native Chris Hughes, who is gay, released a letter outlining his opposition. The same day, Rev. Dr. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP, also released a detailed statement urging legislators and voters to reject the discriminatory measure. Over the weekend, hundreds of clergy from across the state issued a similar call. Their letter and each of the signatories were published in newspaper ads yesterday and today.

Debate on the proposed anti-LGBT constitutional amendment will begin today in the North Carolina Senate. A hearing is scheduled at 1:30 p.m. in the Senate’s Judiciary I committee where lawmakers will consider a revised version of the legislation. The revised version has come under fire from both advocates and law professors, who say the text’s broad and vague language could have far-reaching consequences.