NC county commissioner calls to revoke ‘illegal’ same sex benefits

By David Edwards
Wednesday, May 9, 2012 13:35 EDT
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Mecklenburg County Commissioner Bill James (WCNC)
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Only hours after North Carolina passed a controversial amendment banning same sex marriage, a county commissioner is already calling to revoke the “illegal” benefits provided to unmarried same sex couples.

“Now that #4marriage #amendment1 has passed – we need to eliminate those illegal benefits,” Mecklenburg County Commissioner Bill James, who describes himself as a “conservative Republican,” wrote in a message posted to Twitter Wednesday morning.

A second tweet called to “scrap homosexual marriage benefits” and pointed to a letter the commissioner sent to County Manager Harry Jones.

“Since Amendment One has passed when will we get a memo or something that outlines what changes we need to make to our health plan to be in compliance?” Jones asked. “I recall when the Democrats on the Commission forced the issue and added these benefits for homosexuals that a number of legal experts said it was illegal then – including the City attorney. Now that Amendment one has passed it obviously is illegal to offer this benefit as there is now only one ‘domestic legal union’ recognized in the state.”

“I would like to know when the Board can expect information on the changes Amendment One wrought (or are we going to break the law and spend scarce resources on litigation we will likely loose)?” he added.

In an email obtained by Raw Story, Jones responded that his office was investigating whether the amendment would require changes to Mecklenburg County’s benefits program.

“Our legal and human resources staffs are evaluating the Amendment, as well our policy, to determine what, if any, potential impact the Amendment will have on Mecklenburg County,” the county manager wrote. “As soon as we complete our evaluation we will brief the board at a future meeting on our findings, conclusions, and policy options available to you.”

Amber Snowden, a spokeswoman for Jones, told Raw Story that no changes in policy were expected because same sex marriage was already illegal in North Carolina prior to Amendment One passing, and benefits for unmarried couples were not affected by the law.

“Our assumption is that it would take a board action to revoke those benefits that have already been law,” she said. “Legal and human resources staff is looking into whether or not the amendment will make any impact on policy. But currently, policy has not changed and will not change until the board takes action in the future.”

Snowden noted that “until the courts or some government entity steps in and orders them to do so then they’re not obliged” to revoke same sex benefits.

In December 2009, the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners voted to allow same sex domestic partners to participate in the county’s benefit program.

According to James’ website, “He is on record opposing ‘same-sex’ benefits and has actively worked to stop Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools from busing children based on race.”

In 2010, the county commissioner was reprimanded after he used a slur to refer fellow commissioner Vilma Leake’s son when she revealed that he had died of AIDS.

“Your son was a homo, really?” he was caught on camera asking Leake during a commission meeting.

“I’m going to hit you, don’t talk about my son that way,” Leake shot back.

During a 2010 discussion about the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, James also asserted that “homosexuals are sexual predators.”

Even after Amendment One has passed, several institutions in North Carolina, like Duke University, have pledged to keep benefits for same sex couples.

“Duke was one of the first employers to make benefits available to same sex partners in 1994 as a way to be inclusive and supportive of the needs of all faculty and staff, and this support will continue,” Duke vice president of administration Kyle Cavanaugh said in a statement.

Watch this video from WCNC, broadcast Dec. 29, 2010.

(h/t: Good As You)

David Edwards
David Edwards
David Edwards has served as an editor at Raw Story since 2006. His work can also be found at Crooks & Liars, and he's also been published at The BRAD BLOG. He came to Raw Story after working as a network manager for the state of North Carolina and as as engineer developing enterprise resource planning software. Follow him on Twitter at @DavidEdwards.
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