Anti-gay activists say ‘Stop Winston-Salem’

Group says cities decision to recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages is illegal

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — An organization which supported the passage of North Carolina’s anti-LGBT state constitutional amendment on marriage has said it will “Stop Winston-Salem” and and the city’s recent decision to recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages.

In a fundraising email to supporters on Saturday, the North Carolina Values Coalition said the Piedmont city’s decision to recognize all legal marriages for the purposes of employee and family benefits is illegal.

“The city has declared they will now recognize same-sex marriages performed legally in other states — even though those ‘marriages’ are not recognized by North Carolina,” the group said in the message. “Winston-Salem has absolutely no authority to take this step, but they are doing so because they have been emboldened by the equally lawless actions of North Carolina’s Attorney General Roy Cooper when he announced that he would no longer defend our Marriage Amendment.”

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The group continued, “We all worked tirelessly to get the Marriage Amendment passed two years ago for this very reason – so that cities and towns and counties in our state could not take it upon themselves to ‘legalize’ gay marriage. And, make no mistake, Winston-Salem’s actions are illegal.”

The coalition is for donations to “to fight against the City of Winston-Salem’s lawlessness,” and they say they are “weighing all the options, including legal action, and we need to have the resources to stop the city of Winston-Salem in their tracks.”

At least one Winston-Salem leader is speaking out against the coalition’s efforts. City Councilman Dan Besse took to Facebook to denounce the group on Sunday, citing a recent decision by the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals striking down Virginia’s similar anti-gay marriage ban.

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“For the record, I’m proud of my part in helping to bring about Winston-Salem’s move toward equality,” Besse said.

Winston-Salem is thought to be the first local government in North Carolina to fully recognize out-of-state, legal same-sex marriages by employees. The city does not have a separate domestic partner benefits program.

The North Carolina Values Coalition had previously condemned Winston-Salem’s policy change.

The group is headed by activist Tami Fitzgerald. It’s closely aligned with far-right anti-gay groups like the Family Research Council, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has named a hate group. Fitzgerald served on the board North Carolina’s Vote For Marriage referendum committee with Dr. Mark Harris, pastor of Charlotte’s First Baptist Church. In mid-September, Harris’ church hosted a political rally with anti-gay leaders like U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and local anti-gay activists David and Jason Benham.

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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.