Mecklenburg commissioners approve DP benefits

GOP commissioner urged inclusion of anti-gay 'white paper' with extremist links in staff report on benefits, cost

by Matt Comer  Editor  editor@goqnotes.com
Published: December 16, 2009 in News

meckcodpreviewCHARLOTTE — The Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners split along party lines at their meeting Dec. 15, approving domestic partner benefits for same-sex couples 6-3. The county joins six other local North Carolina governments offering similar benefits.

Several members of the public spoke on the domestic partner plan prior to the board’s vote. Those opposed cited moral reasons for opposing the plan.

“I’m from the old school and I know what is right and I know what is wrong,” citizen Jason Colley said. “I know what is good and I know what is bad. I do not wish my taxes to go to something of this nature. It seems like to me the minorities always get their way in whatever minority class it may be. I thought we were governed by majority rule. It doesn’t seem that way.”

African-American, Democratic Commissioner George Dunlap took exception to Colley’s remarks. “The majority hasn’t always been right,” he said.

Owen Sutkowski, a 2009 Democratic primary challenger to incumbent Charlotte City Councilwoman Patsy Kinsey, told commissioners it was “common sense” to provide “equitable access to benefits to all employees.”



From the blog…

Anecdotes, bits and pieces from Carolina news-media, blogosphere and more, following the Mecklenbug County debate and vote on DP benefits. Read more at the blog…

The breakdown

The vote to approve domestic partner benefits in Mecklenburg County split along party lines.

Yay
Dumont Clarke (Dist. 4)
Harold Cogdell, Jr. (Vice-Chair, At-Large)
George Dunlap (Dist. 3)
Vilma Leake (Dist. 2)
Dan Murrey (At-Large)
Jennifer Roberts (Chair, At-Large)

Nay
Karen Bentley (Dist. 1)
Neil Cooksey (Dist. 5)
Bill James (Dist. 6)

Democratic commissioners all agreed the issue was about fairness, human rights and employee recruitment and retention.

The approved plan will define “domestic partners” as two same-sex people in a “spousal like” and “exclusive, mutually committed” relationship in which both “share the necessities of life and are financially interdependent.” The county will require domestic partners meet certain criteria and provide signed legal affidavits along with joint financial documents such as a joint mortgage or lease. Employees will be able to enroll in a domestic partner plan sometime next fall, when the county government enters into a new health insurance enrollment period. Mecklenburg County’s plan will not include opposite-sex, unmarried couples.

Before taking the motion to proceed with the benefits plan, the board heard a report filed by the county’s human resources department outlining the potential costs and benefits of a proposed plan to offer medical and leave benefits to same-sex partners of county employees. According to the report, county costs for a domestic partner plan are estimated to range from $400,000 to $1.2 million per year, but could be as low as $40,000 per year depending on how many employees enroll in the program.

The 80-page human resources report also included a biased white paper from the Corporate Resource Council (CRC), recommended to the human resources department by Republican Commissioner Karen Bentley. CRC says its goal is to provide “resources and programs … to equip corporate executives to establish family- and faith-friendly employee policies.”

Before calling for a vote on the domestic partner plan, Democratic Board Chair Jennifer Roberts addressed her thoughts on the CRC report.

“I’m a little disappointed it was included in the staff report as an objective report,” she said. “This was not an objective report … it claims homosexuals are less healthy than heterosexuals. Clearly that report is not very objective.”

In the CRC white paper, entitled “The Hidden Costs of Domestic Partner Benefits,” CRC claims gay sex is unhealthy and that employers offering domestic partner benefits to LGBT people will experience extra cost because of high HIV/AIDS rates.

“Advocates of domestic partner plans claim that employers with domestic partner benefits have not experienced an increase of cost because of HIV/AIDS,” the paper reads. “However, the numbers of HIV infections and AIDS cases consistently reveal that HIV/AIDS affects gay men disproportionately. In fact, one observer estimates that ‘the incidence of AIDS among 20- to 30-year-old homosexual men is roughly 430 times greater than among the heterosexual population at large.’”

The CRC’s “observer” is Dr. Jeffrey Satinover, a regular pundit for the “ex-gay” movement who has said Prozac could cure homosexuality and whose controversial works have been used by anti-LGBT organizations as proof sexual orientation is a changeable, non-innate characteristic. The cited HIV/AIDS statistic in the CRC white paper comes from Satinover’s 1996 book, “Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth.” The book is cited as a resource by the so-called National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuals, a religious anti-LGBT and “ex-gay” organization. NARTH has been associated with several controversial individuals, including Holocaust revisionist Scott Lively who says gays masterminded the Nazi genocide of European Jews. Lively is the U.S. envoy for the international group Watchman on the Walls, a hate group under watch by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The CRC has been identified as a “non-profit consulting firm” affiliated with the Alliance Defense Fund, a conservative organization which has mounted legal challenges to LGBT-inclusive and gay-friendly laws and policies across the nation. In fact, CRC’s web domain information shows it was registered by the Alliance Defense Fund and shares the same address as the anti-gay legal organization.

Other local North Carolina governments offering similar domestic partner benefits include the towns of Carrboro and Chapel Hill, the Cities of Durham and Greensboro and Durham and Orange Counties. In addition, Mecklenburg County includes sexual orientation in its employee non-discrimination policies.

The City of Charlotte does not offer domestic partner benefits and does not protect employees on the basis of sexual orientation or gender-identity. In November, Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx told Q-Notes the city council could move on LGBT non-discrimination and other policy issues early in this current. Foxx and new council members were sworn in on Dec. 7.

relatedstories:
Advocates hopeful on Mecklenburg DP benefits, Dec. 14
DP benefits scheduled for Dec. 15 Mecklenburg commissioners meeting, Dec. 5
Q&A: Charlotte’s new mayor-elect on LGBT equality, Nov. 28
On LGBT equality, when will Charlotte get with the game?, Oct. 17
Meck. County on its way to offering DP benefits, Feb. 7
James uses anti-trans slur, voices ‘concern’ over Meck. domestic partners, Jan. 27