CommunityPam's House Blend

Charlotte-Mecklenburg's Parks Helms: 'The time for same-sex issue is now'

This is the first of what will be a few Blend posts on the gay rights situation in Charlotte-Meckenburg County, NC (CharMeck). County Commissioner Parks Helms and Jennifer Roberts are supporting the addition of sexual orientation to its anti-discrimination law. Mecklenburg County, is still a conservative area of North Carolina, so this is no small potatoes. It’s the brave folks in the local trenches, allies like Parks Helms, that are also the ones willing to take the heat. And trust me, they are.

The Charlotte Observer interviewed Helms, and he’s not shying away from doing what is right.

Helms: Time for same-sex issue is now Chairman says he has votes to add sexual orientation to nondiscrimination policy Calling it “long overdue,” Mecklenburg County commissioners chairman Parks Helms said Friday that he has the votes to add “sexual orientation” to the county’s nondiscrimination policy next week.

Commissioners are expected to vote Tuesday on a resolution that would make sexual orientation — like race, color, sex and religion — an unacceptable reason for the county to discriminate in hiring and personnel decisions.

This is an important public policy decision that is long overdue,” said Helms, a Democrat. “And I would hope the members of this commission would accept it in the spirit in which it is offered.”

“It’s mystifying to me that the majority would want to go into an issue that would so divide the community and cause upset,” said Republican commissioner Dan Bishop. “This appears therefore to be solely for the purpose of division and serving an extremist special interest.”

Republican Bill James said the proposed resolution condones something illegal under N.C. law.

I know that (Helms) is a liberal, and Democrats are in favor of all things perverted,” he said, “but I’m trying to understand what it is he wants to promote. I want to understand how much deviance Parks is talking about.”

This would be the first time commissioners vote on a measure adding a person’s sexual orientation to categories of bias in hiring. A similar effort several years ago never came to a vote.

The city of Charlotte has debated but never adopted the anti-discrimination language, which would require legislative approval because it would change the city charter. Last year a proposal to extend city benefits to same-sex partners never took off.

Helms also has expressed support for partner benefits. But he said Friday he’s not ready to officially raise that issue.

It is not clear whether such benefits are legal in the state. Though N.C. law prohibits sodomy, a U.S. Supreme Court case recently left the status of many state sodomy laws in doubt.

Tuesday’s resolution deals only with discrimination. Helms says he has discussed the measure with local ministers.

He said he told them he was “driven to this decision by my Christian faith and my understanding of what is required of us. I believe in the worth and dignity of all persons. … We have got to get away from the political condemnation of people and the religious condemnation. It’s wrong.”

This is going to be a contentious meeting on Tuesday, with religious leaders planning to attend and make their Reich views know.

I’m also going have a post up soon, featuring an exclusive interview with Commissioner Jennifer Roberts on the upcoming meeting, the unhinged Bill James, and what the climate really is in her neck of the woods. I’ve already received and compiled Bill James’s latest sick email assault about this matter, and all of that will be included as well. It’s unbelievable.

UPDATE: Here is the post with Jennifer Roberts and more from Bill James.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding