North Carolina County Passes Domestic Partner Benefits Despite Defamatory Comments From Commissioner Bill James

The Mecklenburg County Commissioners, last Tuesday, passed a domestic partner benefits policy, extending benefits to the spouses of LGBT city employees and making it the seventh North Carolina county to do so. The new policy will take affect next fall during the open enrollment period. According to WCSC, the 6 to 3 favorable vote makes “a Mecklenburg County employee who is in a same-sex relationship where both partners live together and share financial responsibilities eligible to receive county benefits for their partner as long as one of them is a county employee.” Many Mecklenburg County residents and allies said passing the law was about basic equal rights. “I’m not gay but I believe they have [the] right to feed their family,” said George Dunlap, who continued saying that by not passing a benefits package, it promotes bias and says Charlotte is not progressive, he told reporters. While the board was split on the policy, the most vocal opposition in the media came from Commissioner Bill James. Commissioner James was quoted calling co-Commissioner Vilma Leake’s deceased son, who was gay, a “homo” and accused Commissioner Leakes of pushing her “agenda.” The Miami Herald's Steve Rothaus, reported that Commissioner James even sent e-mails to the local FOX affiliate, in which he defended his defamatory language. “In justifying her position last night in public, she used her son’s ‘lifestyle’ and his death from HIV-AIDS to justify voting for benefits to allow individuals  to use tax dollar to engage in the same behavior that resulted in her son’s death.” According to 365Gay, Leake’s son was gay and died of AIDS. Last week, the Mecklenburg Commissioners chair Jennifer Roberts said that her colleague Bill James should apologize for his rants but Commissioner Leake said she doesn’t suspect Commissioner James will. Journalists have been fair and accurate in reporting on this story and GLAAD will keep monitoring this situation. We urge media to continue shining a spotlight on Commissioner James' outrageous anti-gay comments.