Marriage opponents say Winston-Salem policy is ‘lawlessness’

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Advocates for North Carolina’s anti-LGBT constitutional amendment are describing Winston-Salem officials’ decisions as “lawlessness,” in response to that city’s decision to recognize all marriages, gay or straight.

“Lawlessness only begets more lawlessness. Here’s the proof,” wrote NC Values Coalition in a message to supporters Tuesday. “This weekend we learned that Attorney General Roy Cooper’s refusal to defend the North Carolina Marriage Amendment and statutes has inspired the City of Winston-Salem to begin recognizing same-sex ‘marriages’ performed in other states.”

The group added, “Although no court of law has found North Carolina’s marriage statutes and Marriage Amendment to be unconstitutional, the City of Winston-Salem has taken it upon themselves to do the dirty work. In so doing, they are openly violating the laws and Constitution of our State.”

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The Winston-Salem Journal had initially reported the policy change, and, for our original report, qnotes attempted to reach out to NC Values Coalition Director Tami Fitzgerald for comment. Fitzgerald never returned our message.

In a letter to city employees on Aug. 28, Winston-Salem’s human resources director, Carmen Caruth, said the city would recognize all legal marriage licenses from any state or other U.S. jurisdiction. That includes both opposite-sex and same-sex couples. Employees are now eligible to enroll their spouses and children in all city employee benefits.

LGBT advocates in the state believe it’s the first time a city or other jurisdiction in the state has fully recognized legal, out-of-state same-sex marriages. Other municipalities have had domestic partner benefit programs for some time, but none have gone as far as Winston-Salem, accepting married LGBT couples in the pre-existing definition for spouses of employees.

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A memo on Winston-Salem’s new policy reads, in part: “Effective immediately, the City of Winston-Salem will change the definition of marriage to recognize marriage licenses from any State or U.S. jurisdiction, regardless of sex, for all City benefit programs. Based on the 4th Circuit opinion and the North Carolina Attorney General’s recent statement, the City is now able to recognize an out of state marriage license issued to a same sex couple.”

The memo adds, “This means that if you are currently married to someone of the same sex, and have a valid marriage license from any State or U.S. jurisdiction, you can enroll your same sex spouse and children in all City benefits including but not limited to medical, dental, flexible spending accounts (FSAs) and life insurance. You would also be able to use FMLA to care for your same sex spouse and children.”

Winston-Salem City Council members will discuss adding an additional domestic partner benefits program at a community development, housing and general government committee meeting today, 4:30 p.m., Room 239, in Winston-Salem City Hall.

The NC Values Coalition is calling on supporters to attend the meeting. “Show the City Council of Winston-Salem that they cannot violate the law and get away with it,” they said. “Make your voice as a taxpayer heard loud and clear. And show up on November 4th and vote them out. They deserve to be held accountable for lawless behavior.”

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Posted by Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.