Originally published: Dec. 6, 2011, 6:44 p.m.
Updated: Dec. 7, 2011, 7:44 a.m.
RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina’s capital city on Tuesday became the latest in a string of local governments taking a stand against an impending anti-LGBT constitutional amendment. The council voted 6-2, with newly-elected Mayor Nancy McFarlane voting with the majority.
Former Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker previously stated his opposition to the amendment last week.
Only two council members, John Odom and Bonner Gaylord, voted against the amendment. Gaylord, who seems opposed to the amendment, nevertheless said the council was taking up an issue beyond their purview. Odom had earlier told The News & Observer that he was a “good Republican” who believes marriage “is between a man and a woman.”
Councilmember Russ Stephenson said at the meeting that the amendment could have negative economic impacts
“Our business is to be the policy advisors and cheerleaders for this city, and to the extent that this is a discriminatory measure, it really is going to put the city of Raleigh in a competitive disadvantage with other cities and other states by making it harder for us to attract the best quality companies and jobs,” Stephenson said. “So I think if we just frame any comment we make to the legislature that we think this is hurting our ability to do our job as a city…to continue to be the number one city in the nation, attract the best companies and jobs, I think that will hopefully get the point across.”
The amendment could threaten municipal authority to extend medical and other benefits to same-sex partners of public employees.
Raleigh is the first city to issue a statement opposing the amendment since its approval for the May 8, 2012, ballot by legislators in September. Carrboro, Chapel Hill and Durham issued similar resolutions earlier this year.
The anti-LGBT constitutional amendment would prohibit recognition of marriages, civil unions and domestic partnerships by same-sex couples. Statewide LGBT advocacy group Equality North Carolina and the new Coalition to Protect NC Families, a referendum committee formed to oppose the amendment, has argued the measure’s broad language could also threaten existing protections for unmarried same-sex couples and weaken child custody arrangements and domestic violence statutes.
“We applaud today’s vote. With it, the Raleigh City Council not only proved it is one of many large, diverse and progressive cities that promote equal rights and opportunities for all, but it also stands in strong opposition to discriminatory legislation that could disenfranchise many public employees in all corners of the state,” Protect NC Families Campaign Manager Jeremy Kennedy said in a statement Tuesday evening. “Not only would such an amendment preclude municipalities like Raleigh from offering its own domestic partner benefits to employees and harm the business climate of our state, it would force our state’s Constitution to declare that some North Carolinians and their families are inherently second class. We strongly encourage other state leaders to join the men and women of the Raleigh City Council to formally and publicly reject this amendment, and, in the process, educate their citizens of the many harms that drift from it.”
The campaign on the amendment is anticipated to draw millions of dollars in funding from groups both opposed and in favor of the measure. Several referendum committees have already been formed, including one whose coalition partner is the National Organization for Marriage, a group known for negative campaigning in several marriage debates across the nation.