I am very proud of my hometown tonight after attending the Durham (NC) City Council meeting where a resolution supporting civil marriage equality for same-sex couples was passed unanimously. Mayor Bill Bell and council members affirmed marriage equality. While NC does not allow gay and lesbian couples to marry, it is heartening to have the support of the Bull City (our state legislature has also turned away, for the sixth time, a state marriage amendment).

When I entered the council chambers to sign up to speak (around 6:20, with the meeting to begin at 7PM), it was already filling up. I gave a hug to Mayor Bell, who has known me since I was a little p-a-m. He apparently keeps up with the "trouble" I get into on the Blend and in The Durham News. I was also greeted and hugged by Mike Woodard, who frequently marches in the Pride Parade with the allies and "family" Old West Durham peeps (even though neither of us live in the neighborhood these days).

I sat down in the second row. After several proclamations and bits of business it came to the main agenda items of the night. It was clear this was a big meeting for two reasons — the resolution and a matter concerning the city's recycling vendor contract. I'm sorry to say that I was not up to date on the latter issue, but after an excruciating hour of debate that shed little light (at least to me) on what the outcome was, it was time for the resolution.

The council decided to move on the issue, meaning no debate was needed. All but one of those who signed up to speak was in favor of the equality resolution. One woman in my row (well-known local homophobe and failed political candidate Victoria Peterson) jumped to her feet to object (about 4:30 in) "Excuse me, I'd like to speak." Mayor Bell firmly, but politely told her "I'm running the meeting" and said they were ready to move the item and vote. And they did — and there was a standing ovation (4:48).

Notice the racial divide — who was standing and who remained seated. It's too bad that I was unable to get up to speak. That's for another day…I'll take this opportunity to announce that I've been asked to be the keynote speaker at NC Pride this year. The parade, which weaves in OWD next to Duke's East Campus, ends with the keynote and other guests. It will be a good opportunity to celebrate the victories — and address this sad divide in understanding.

The full resolution is below the fold.

The full text:

WHEREAS, the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized civil marriage as one of the basic civil rights fundamental to our very existence and survival and one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness; and

WHEREAS, the City Council of the City of Durham has adopted and reaffirmed a policy of promoting equal rights and opportunities for employees of Durham City Government without regard to  race, religion, age, sex, handicap, national origin, color, marital status, personal appearance, sexual orientation, family responsibilities, matriculation, political affiliation or belief;  and

WHEREAS, in 2002, the City Council of the City of Durham formally extended health care benefits to same sex domestic partners of City employees and their legal dependents due in part to the fact that same sex marriages are not legally recognized in North Carolina; and

WHEREAS, the continued refusal to legally recognize same sex marriages denies individuals involved in same sex relationships the important legal benefits, rights and responsibilities of civil marriage that are available to heterosexual couples; and

WHEREAS, the continued refusal to deny same sex partners the ability to enjoy the benefits, rights and responsibilities of a legally recognized civil marriage union is tantamount to the denial of these benefits, rights and responsibilities on the basis of sexual orientation; and  

WHEREAS, the denial of the rights and responsibilities of civil marriage on the basis of sexual orientation is inconsistent with the City Council’s commitment to equal rights and opportunities for its employees without regard to sexual orientation.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF DURHAM:

       Section 1.  The City Council of the City of Durham endorses and supports the rights of same-sex couples to share fully and equally in the rights, responsibilities and commitments of civil marriage.

       Section 2.   This resolution shall be effective on and after its passage.

Thank you Mayor Bell and the members of the Durham City Council for affirming that separate is not equal and that the Bull City supports diversity.

William V. “Mayor Bill Bell

Mayor

Phone: (919) 560-4333 ext. 10269

Bill.Bell@durhamnc.gov

Mayor Pro Tem

Cora Cole-McFadden

City Council Member (Ward 1)

Phone: (919) 560-4396 ext. 10277

Cora.Cole-McFadden@durhamnc.gov

Farad Ali

City Council Member (At-Large)

Phone: 560-4396, ext. 10273

E-mail: farad.ali@durhamnc.gov

Eugene A. Brown

City Council member (At-Large)

Phone: (919) 688-9314

Eugene.Brown@durhamnc.gov

Diane Catotti

City Council member (At-Large)

Phone: (919) 560-4396 ext. 10278

diane.catotti@durhamnc.gov

Howard Clement, III

City Council member (Ward 2)

Phone: (919) 560-4396, ext. 10272

Howard.Clement@durhamnc.gov

Mike Woodard

City Council Member (Ward 3)

Phone: (919) 560-4396 ext. 10276

Email: mike.woodard@durhamnc.gov