Advocates hopeful on Mecklenburg DP benefits

County commission might vote on matter Tuesday

by Matt Comer  Editor  editor@goqnotes.com
Published: December 14, 2009 in News

CHARLOTTE — Advocates are hopeful the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners will make a proactive move on domestic partner benefits for county employees at their meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 15.

The board will receive a final report on the issue, with research and review on the possible fiscal impact and legal considerations of offering health and other benefits to same-sex partners of county employees. The 80-page report was compiled by the county’s human resources department.

Earlier this month, Republican Commissioner Bill James publicly opposed any new policy. He said offering the benefits to same-sex partners of county employees will make county government “complicit in illegal behavior” because of the crimes against nature statute still on the books in the state.

“People always get into trouble when they spend time trying to skirt the law and Mecklenburg County is headed in that direction,” James wrote in an email on Dec. 4. “Marriage in NC is ‘one man-one woman’. Offering Domestic Partner insurance ignores and undermines the law.”

Phil Hargett, chair of the Mecklenburg Gay and Lesbian Political Action Committee (MeckPAC), said his organization has been working to get discussion of the issue on a county commission agenda.

“MeckPAC’s efforts have included educating commissioners through personal meetings with them and providing commissioners with an extensive array of written resource materials on this crucial issue of employment equality,” Hargett said in an emailed statement. “MeckPAC looks forward to a positive outcome at tomorrow’s commission meeting that will cap years of hard work by many in the Charlotte/Mecklenburg LGBT community.”

Q-Notes attempted contacting Mecklenburg Commission Chair Jennifer Roberts for comment. She was unavailable before press time. In October, Roberts told Q-Notes she saw Charlotte moving forward on LGBT diversity and inclusion.

“There are a lot of indications that we are moving forward as a community and being inclusive and non-discriminatory,” Roberts said. “We still have a long way to go, but we are moving forward and the voices of homophobia are getting fewer and farer between. I’m pleased the community is showing that it cares about equality and fairness.”

Neither Charlotte nor Mecklenburg County have ever offered domestic partner benefits to employees. Six other local governments in the state do offer such benefits, including the towns of Carrboro and Chapel Hill, the cities of Durham and Greensboro and Durham and Orange Counties. In addition, Mecklenburg County includes sexual orientation in its employee non-discrimination policies. In November, Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx told Q-Notes the city council could move on LGBT non-discrimination and other policy issues early in this current term. Foxx and new council members were sworn in on Dec. 7.

relatedstories:
Mecklenburg commissioners approve DP benefits, Dec. 15
DP benefits scheduled for Dec. 15 Mecklenburg commissioners meeting, Dec. 5
Q&A: Charlotte’s new mayor-elect on LGBT equality, Nov. 28
On LGBT equality, when will Charlotte get with the game?, Oct. 17
Meck. County on its way to offering DP benefits, Feb. 7
James uses anti-trans slur, voices ‘concern’ over Meck. domestic partners, Jan. 27