Wednesday, August 31, 2011

NC Gov. Perdue: "Focus on Hurricane Relief, Jobs", not Marriage Amendment

The seal of North Carolina bears the date of t...Image via WikipediaThe Republican leaders in North Carolina are facing a backlash and some tough questions over their continued push for an amendment to the state constitution banning same sex marriage, despite the devastation and massive cleanup efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene. Critics are also hammering proponents for their lack of focus on job creation.

Equality NC reports:

8/30/2011 - A press conference today by supporters of a proposed anti-LGBT amendment that would ban same-sex marriage, prohibit civil unions and strip domestic partner benefits, turned uncomfortable for its speakers, House Majority Leader Rep. Paul "Skip" Stam and House Speaker Pro Tempore Rep. Dale Folwell. Reporters pushed Rep. Stam to clarify comments that seemingly tied same-sex relationships to polygamy and adult incest, as well as suggested that sexual orientation is a matter of choice. Later, Rep. Folwell surprised some when he agreed with a reporter who suggested that the best way to "defend traditional marriage" might be to address poverty and infidelity in the constitution.

Rep. Stam was also asked to back up comments about studies showing societal harm of same sex couples, in light of the fact that American Academy of Pediatrics has said, “There is ample evidence to show that children raised by same-gender parents fare as well as those raised by heterosexual parents.”

Audience members also pressed Rep. Folwell to explain why Republicans were expending energy on an unnecessary constitutional amendment (North Carolina state law already defines marriage as being between a man and a woman), rather than focusing on creating jobs and bolstering the economy. Both Stam and Folwell claimed that nothing in the amendment would impact private businesses ability to offer domestic partner benefits, nor would it impact private industry.

In response, many state businesses have come forward to say that the amendment would drive away companies with diversity policies and domestic partnership benefits. "In the face of the worst economy in 80 years and as our neighbors recover from a devastating hurricane, the General Assembly is considering a Constitutional amendment that may terminate the legal rights of thousands of same- and opposite-sex couples, creating hardships for employers and employees alike.  If other workplaces are anything like mine, please join us in saying enough is enough.  As employers, we take our responsibilities to our people seriously.  This is the kind of help from the government that we can least afford. If the legislature’s going to bear the expense of a special session, they should focus on job creation and matters that are important to all North Carolinians," said Bob Page, Founder & CEO, Replacements, Ltd. Greensboro, N.C., said on Tuesday.

In reality, legal experts and business owners agree, the anti-LGBT amendment would not only strip local governments of the authority to provide their public employees with domestic partner benefits in areas like the City of Asheville, the Town of Carrboro, the Town of Chapel Hill, the City of Durham, the County of Orange, the County of Durham, the City of Greensboro, and County of Mecklenburg, but also harms private businesses by potentially denying them control over what benefits they offer their employees and the caliber of employees they can recruit. In one of several anti-business scenarios created by the language of Senate Bill 106, defining “marriage” as the only “legal domestic union” that can be “valid or recognized in this state,” the amendment could tie the hands of state regulatory agencies like the North Carolina Department of Insurance, by preventing approval of any private contracts for domestic partner benefits for unmarried same- or opposite-sex couples. But, as UNC Law professor Victor Flatt put it,"the larger economic impact may be based on the perception of what the policy means about the state of North Carolina as a place to live and do business."

Stam and Folwell also claimed that the anti-LGBT amendment has strong support across geographic, racial, and generational lines. In fact, three polls this year show a majority of North Carolinians, including African Americans, support legal recognition of same-sex relationships and oppose efforts to write discrimination into the constitution. Bishop Tonyia Rawls of Unity Fellowship Church, has addressed these erroneous claims of support for discrimination across racial lines: “I am the beneficiary of liberties hard won through the Civil Rights Movement. I am here because reasonable people took a stand and said no to unjust laws that wanted to rob me and people like me of our liberties. I am here because it is my turn to fight. We all stand today against these efforts to legislate discrimination and harassment.”

This opposition to the amendment is especially true among younger demographics, with the majority of support for this type of legislation coming from those over the age of 65. In reality, in all three polls, between 93-95% of those surveyed said lawmakers should instead be focusing on jobs, the economy and the state budget, with less than 4% in each poll wanting the focus on social issues generally. Loan Tran, a senior at Phillip O Berry Academy of Technology balked at lawmakers' claims of support across generations, “As a high school student in North Carolina, and as a human being who has endured an unfair share of bullying, harassment, and relentless put downs from my peers due solely to my sexual orientation, I am disappointed at the apparent lack of courage exhibited by our General Assembly in not only refusing to prevent this discriminatory amendment from coming to bear, but instead moving mountains to effectuate its passage when not one job is created by it.”

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