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CharMeck votes to expand anti-discrimination law to protect gays

In a meeting that went way-long last night, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg (NC) County board voted 6-3, to add sexual orientation to its anti-discrimination policy. The meeting was contentious, the vote was along party lines, and it was not a given it would pass. Here are just a sampling of quotes from the commissioners:

“This is to say who we are,” he said. “This is what we believe.”
— Parks Helms

“I’m just as much of a Christian as commissioner (Jim) Puckett, commissioner James and commissioner Bishop, God will judge me. Not these three.”
— Norman Mitchell

“A human right to be treated as a person of dignity and worth should not be debated.”
— Wilhelmenia Rembert

“I suggest seeking services, seeking counseling, seeking help.”
— Rembert, referring to Bill James’s fixation on sexual acts – and that he could be coping with unresolved issues. [He sent out several e-mails describing Democratic commissioners as endorsing perversity and sexual deviancy.]


Most of you don’t live in CharMeck (I don’t), but this success isn’t just a local issue; what happened here can be repeated all over this country, in cities, counties and states that are Red, moving toward Purple. It shows us that there are elected officials willing to stand up for what is right, not what is politically safe or expedient. It is about conviction and courage.

Sadly, we cannot look to the majority of national, establishment Dems for this kind of leadership seen by Parks Helms, Jennifer Roberts to bring forth this measure and take the heat. All of those that voted for this did so regardless of any political consequences.

At Large:
Parks Helms
Wilhelmenia Rembert
Jennifer Roberts

1 – Jim Puckett
2 – Norman A. Mitchell, Sr.
3 – Valerie Woodard
4 – Dumont Clarke
5 – Dan Bishop
6 – Bill James

Video is here.

From the Charlotte Observer story this AM:

Mecklenburg County commissioners voted to add “sexual orientation” to the county’s nondiscrimination policy, over the vehement objections of Republicans and after hours of debate that went late into Tuesday night.

The new policy means the county cannot discriminate in hiring and personnel decisions on the basis of sexual orientation, adding that to a list that includes race, color, sex, religion, national origin and age.

Democrats who voted for the change said it was an overdue statement of tolerance. But Republican members predicted a backlash at next year’s election, and at least one — county commissioner Bill James — said the board’s action went against God.

Commissioners Chairman Parks Helms set off a firestorm when he proposed the change last month. Democrats said they had been flooded with e-mails on both sides of the debate. On Tuesday night, they faced a crowded meeting chamber and, some said, an unusually passionate and eloquent one on both sides of the issue.

…When Helms proposed the change, he said he would also favor offering county employees health benefits for same-sex partners.

This week, he said he didn’t have the votes to make that change, but believes changing the anti-discrimination policy could pave the way. This is the first time the county board has voted on adding sexual orientation to the county anti-discrimination policy. The change will not cost the county any money.

Republicans vowed to fight any further changes. James said that if Republicans regain a majority on the county board in the 2006 election, they would reverse Tuesday night’s vote at the first board meeting.

“This is our collective judgment and the rock upon which we stand,” he said. Puckett and Bishop said they did not believe the change was necessary. Both said they believe homosexuality is wrong, but would not discriminate because of it.

“If I were to discriminate against someone, I would discriminate against liberals, not homosexuals,” Puckett said.

Scores of people attended the meeting, and more than 40 signed up to speak on the issue. Many carried signs, most in favor of the change, and most were quiet. Ministers spoke both in favor of and against it.

James Johnson, a social worker for the county, said he knew employees who were afraid to attend the meeting because they feared discrimination in the workplace if they were identified as gay. “Some had to stand by quietly,” he said.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding