Capital City Leaders Take a Stand Against Discriminatory Measure on May 8, 2012 Ballot
Some great news from the capital city on Tuesday — the Raleigh City Council passed a resolution Tuesday opposing a proposed constitutional amendment appearing on the state’s primary ballot. In a 6-2 vote, new Mayor Nancy McFarlane, who was sworn in on December 5, voted with the majority. Protect NC Families:
With its passage, the Raleigh resolution, recommended by the city’s Human Relations Commission, represented the first formal municipal anti-amendment pronouncement since the legislative vote by the North Carolina General Assembly in September. The Raleigh City Council’s vote followed earlier comments by outgoing Mayor Charles Meeker expressing his public opposition to what he referred to as legislation that is “discriminatory in nature” now slated for consideration by North Carolina voters during the state’s presidential primary on May 8, 2012.
Though this is the first formal resolution against the May 8, 2012, referendum passed by a city council, additional municipalities across the state actively rejected the discriminatory amendment prior to the bill’s consideration by the legislature in September. Durham, Chapel Hill and Carrboro all passed resolutions against the bill in the weeks and months leading up to the legislative vote, representing at least eight geographic areas that stand to lose domestic partner benefits were the amendment to pass.
College and university student governments have also expressed their formal disapproval of this amendment, with North Carolina State University being the first campus to pass a official resolution against the amendment. Several other colleges and universities around the state are considering similar pronouncements against the amendment, which is opposed by more than 70 percent of college-aged North Carolinans, according to a September 2011 Elon University poll.
During Tuesday’s city council meeting in Raleigh, Councilmen John Odom and Bonner Gaylord were the sole votes against the resolution. Gaylord dissented, saying that while he hardly felt his marriage needed “defending,” he believed the City Council was wading into an issue beyond their purview. In response, Russ Stephenson told his colleagues the negative economic impacts of the amendment alone make it very much an issue that would affect the city should it pass next year. “Our business is to be the policy advisors and cheerleaders for this city, and to the extent that this is a discriminatory measure, it really is going to put the city of Raleigh in a competitive disadvantage with other cities and other states by making it harder for us to attract the best quality companies and jobs,” argued Stephenson. “So I think if we just frame any comment we make to the legislature that we think this is hurting our ability to do our job as a city…to continue to be the number one city in the nation, attract the best companies and jobs, I think that will hopefully get the point across.”
Odom had earlier speculated that he would be the only council member to vote against the resolution when interviewed by the Raleigh News and Observer, also saying that he is a “good Republican,” who believes marriage “is between a man and a woman.” Odom’s comments failed to address that two state statutes already ban marriage equality in North Carolina, and that the amendment also prevents civil unions and domestic partnership benefits for unmarried couples, in addition to avariety of other harms.
“We applaud today’s vote. With it, the Raleigh City Council not only proved it is one of many large, diverse and progressive cities that promote equal rights and opportunities for all, but it also stands in strong opposition to discriminatory legislation that could disenfranchise many public employees in all corners of the state,” said Jeremy Kennedy, campaign manager for Protect NC Families, the official coalition campaign to defeat the proposed amendment in May 2012. “Not only would such an amendment preclude municipalities like Raleigh from offering its own domestic partner benefits to employees and harm the business climate of our state, it would force our state’s Constitution to declare that some North Carolinians and their families are inherently second class. We strongly encourage other state leaders to join the men and women of the Raleigh City Council to formally and publicly reject this amendment, and, in the process, educate their citizens of the many harms that drift from it.”